Faith-based response groups were in immediate communication after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake hit Iran, killing hundreds of people, according to Action by Churches Together (ACT).
The epicenter was near the city of Zarand, ACT reported, and between 190 and 400 people are dead, with at least 1,000 injured. ACT representatives were in touch with the Rev. Dr. Nuhad Tomeh, associate general secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), an ACT member.
MECC representatives were on the ground gathering information on Tuesday. Their initial reports indicated damages to 30-70 percent of the houses in the towns of Darman and Kerman and surrounding villages.
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) also reported it would be responding with emergency aid.
Most of the damaged houses were mud-brick dwellings. Search and rescue continued on Tuesday, with heavy rain hampering relief efforts. Temperatures were expected to plunge below freezing Tuesday night.
Zarand, located 600 miles southeast of Tehran, is home to about 15,000 people.
Zarand is about 160 miles from Bam, which was hit by a devastating 6.6 earthquake in 2003. Tuesday's quake was not as deadly as that quake, because the epicenter location is sparsely populated. Tuesday's quake - 25 miles underground - was also deeper than the 2003 temblor, which was six miles underground.
Faith-based groups reported they are able to respond more rapidly to this most recent quake because of their on-the-ground experience in Bam.
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