Iran quake toll rises in rubble

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran Monday raised its earthquake death toll to 306, a day after rescuers called off the search for survivors from the rubble of their homes in the country’s northwest, state media reported.

Health Minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi told a session of parliament that the number jumped by about 50 after victims expired in the hospital. More than 3,000 people were injured in the twin earthquakes that struck two days ago, she added in comments broadcast on state radio.

In one hamlet visited by AP Television News near the village of Bajeh Baj, 13 miles west of one of the epicenters, furniture peeked out from under piles of bricks and collapsed roof timbers while men sorted through debris, trying to salvage what little was left of their households.

Residents say the earthquake killed 35 people living in the simple dwellings surrounded by mountains. Dried earth was left split wide open from the force of the shock, which cut some houses in two and left the wall of one standing only where it was propped up by a refrigerator.

The death toll included some 219 women and children, Dastjerdi said, adding that around 2,000 injured people had been released from hospitals soon after the quake since they had only minor injuries.

Authorities say old, heavy roofs without frames were largely responsible for the death toll in the rural areas.

Scores of aftershocks have coursed through the region since the 6.4 and 6.3 magnitude quakes hit the area, home to some 300,000 people in a 2,300-square-mile borderland near Azerbaijan and Armenia.

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