Bushehr earthquake: rescuers continue to dig for survivors
Tuesday's quake destroyed more than 90 villages, killing 37 people so far, Iran's Red Crescent Society reported. Many areas are still isolated. Pope Francis expresses closeness to the victims.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Rescue teams continue digging through the rubble in areas affected by Tuesday's 6.3 earthquake in the southern province of Bushehr. The quake destroyed more than 90 villages, Iranian Red Crescent chief Mahmoud Mozafar said. So far, 37 people are reported dead with more than 850 injured and thousands displaced. More than 2,000 tents have been set up. Now, Mozafar said, the priority was to get aid to stricken villages after the search for survivors was wrapped up. Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is located only 96 km north-west of the epicentre, was not damaged, Iranian authorities said.

During yesterday's general audience, Pope Francis called on all Catholics to pray for those affected by the earthquake. In a statement picked up by news agencies, the pope said, "I have followed the news of the strong earthquake that hit southern Iran and caused many deaths, more injured and much damage. I pray for the victims and express my solidarity with the people affected by this calamity. Let us pray for all of our brothers and sisters in Iran."

Today, the United States also sent messages of condolences to the Iranian government, stating, "Washington is ready to help Iran in this time of need."

Iran is located on some of Asia's major fault lines. Earthquakes, even devastating one, are very frequent. In 2003, about 26,000 people were killed by a 6.6 magnitude earthquake that flattened the historic city of Bam in the southeast of the country. In August 2012, two strong shocks killed more than 300 people in northwestern Iran.

Caritas's only active mission in Iran is in Bam.