The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 5.9 Earthquake at a depth of 10.0 km roughly 57 km to the northeast of the city of Hashtrud in East Azerbaijan Province, Iran, slightly after 2.15 am local time on Friday 8 November 2019 (slightly after 10.45 pm on Thursday 7 November GMT). The Earthquake is reported to have killed at least five people, with more than 330 people having been injured. Three villages close to the epicentre of the event are described as having been 'completely destroyed' in local media reports, and the event was felt across northwest Iran.
A collapsed building covering a car in the village of Varankesh East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. CNN.
Iran is situated on the southern margin of the Eurasian Plate. Immediately to the south lies the Arabian Plate, which is being pushed northward by the impact of Africa from the south. This has created a zone of faulting and fold mountains along the southwest coast of the country, known as the Zagros Thrust Belt, while to the northeast of this the geology is dominated by three large tectonic blocks, the Central Iran, Lut and Helmand, which move separately in response to pressure from the south, stretching and compressing the rock layers close to the surface and creating frequent Earthquakes, some of which can be very large.
The location of the 8 November 2019 East Azerbaijan Province Earthquake. Contour lines show rates of movement during the quake, the red line is a boundary between two tectonic plates, in this case the Anatolia and Eurasian plates. USGS.
To the northeast of this the geology is dominated by three large tectonic blocks, the Central Iran, Lut and Helmand, which move separately in response to pressure from the south, stretching and compressing the rock layers close to the surface and again creating frequent Earthquakes.
The population of Iran is particularly at risk from Earthquakes as, unlike most other Earthquake-prone nations, very few buildings in the country are quake-resistant. The majority of residential buildings in Iran are made of mud-brick, a building material particularly vulnerable to Earthquakes as the bricks often liquefy, trapping people inside and quickly asphyxiating them with dust. This is particularly dangerous at night when the majority of people are inside sleeping.
Section through the Zagros Fold Belt. Sarkarinejad & Azizi (2007).
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