A strong earthquake shook central and northern Iran on Friday, killing at least 23 people -- some buried by landslides on a mountain road -- and seriously damaging more than 80 villages, the Interior Ministry and state-run media said.
More than 100 others were reported injured by the 6.2-magnitude quake, which struck at 5:08 p.m. The quake's center was about 45 miles north of the capital, Tehran, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
Eight provinces in central and northern Iran were affected, with the heaviest damage in villages near Alamout, about 80 miles west of Tehran, Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani said.
The quake caused landslides and falling boulders that killed 16 people and injured 70 others by burying them in their cars along the mountainous Tehran-Chalous road, state-run television reported.
It also broke windows in parts of Tehran, causing panicked residents to rush outdoors. As midnight approached, many families were still in the streets or parks, planning to spend the night outdoors for fear of aftershocks.
Iran is located on seismic fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. A December earthquake in Bam, in southeastern Iran, measured 6.6 and killed 26,000 people.
The depth of Friday's quake was estimated at between 10 and 16 miles, said geophysicist Waverly Person, with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. "At that range, it's not quite as shallow as the Bam earthquake," Person said in an interview. "We don't expect the damage we had in Bam."
Officials at Tehran University's seismological center said Friday's quake had a magnitude of 5.5 and its epicenter was in the village of Baladeh, 43 miles northeast of Tehran, near the Caspian Sea. The center also said there were 12 aftershocks, one with a 4.4 magnitude.