June 21

This Day in History

Disaster

Jun 21, 1990:

Earthquake devastates Iran

An earthquake near the Caspian Sea in Iran kills more than 50,000 and injures another 135,000 people on this day in 1990. The 7.7-magnitude tremor wrecked havoc on the simply constructed houses in the area.

Thirty minutes past midnight, with most people sleeping in their homes, a violent quake, centered along the shores of the Caspian Sea in northwestern Iran shattered the nighttime tranquility. A 20,000-square-mile area in the provinces of Zanjan and Gilan was absolutely devastated. This region encompasses both farms and sea resorts--all were demolished. In towns along one 80-mile stretch, every single building was reduced to rubble and every single resident was killed.

Additionally, a burst dam in Rasht, caused by a 6.5-magnitude aftershock the following morning, wiped out a large stretch of farmland. Landslides made many roads impassable and many of the people who initially survived under the rubble could not be rescued before their air supply ran out. An estimated 400,000 people were left homeless by the earthquake.

Worldwide relief efforts were undertaken. The Iranian government grudgingly accepted assistance from the United States, though it refused help from Israel and South Africa. Because of Iran's tenuous relations with their home nations, many relief workers from western nations were sent home after only a brief time and before critical assistance could be provided.

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