TEHRAN, Iran -- A 6.2-magnitude earthquake leveled villages and damaged homes in northwestern Iran on Saturday, killing at least 180 people and injuring more than 1,350 others, state TV reported.
The quake hit the towns of Ahar, Haris and Varzaqan in East Azerbaijan province at 4:53 p.m. local time (GMT 12:23), the TV report said. At least six villages were totally leveled, and 60 others sustained damage ranging from 50 to 80 percent, it said.
The epicenter of the quake was a region between Ahar and Haris, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) northwest of the capital, Tehran, according to Khalil Saei, local Crisis Committee chief, the report said.
At least 9 aftershocks jolted the same area and were felt in a wide region near the Caspian Sea, causing panic among the population.
Saei, local Crisis Committee chief, urged people in the quake region to stay outdoors and spend the night at parks and open spaces in anticipation of more aftershocks.
Iran is located on seismic fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. It experiences at least one earthquake every day on average, although the vast majority are so small they go unnoticed.