Strong quake hits southern Iran near oil port

TEHRAN, Sept 10 (Reuters) - A powerful earthquake struck southern Iran on Wednesday near Bandar Abbas, site of a major Iranian oil refinery, killing at least three people and injuring 22, officials said.

The U.S. Geological Service said the quake's magnitude was 6.1 and it struck at 1100 GMT about 53 km (33 miles) west-southwest of Bandar Abbas at a depth of 34.6 miles (55 km).

Yasser Hazbavi, the head of Hormuzgan province's disaster headquarters, told Reuters at least three people were killed and 22 injured. Iranian state television quoted a Red Crescent official as saying rescue workers were searching for casualties.

It said 15 people were injured on Qeshm, an island in the southern Gulf close to where the tremor struck.

Iranian reports variously described the quake as 6.0 and 7.5 on the Richter scale.

"So far, no damage has been reported from the 6.0 Richter scale earthquake which occurred at 3.30 p.m (1100 GMT) for 30 seconds," ISNA news agency reported, quoting a local official. The agency later said the quake cut power on Qeshm.

Magnitude 6 quakes are capable of causing severe damage.

Bandar Abbas is a major Iranian port with oil installations including a refinery. Iran is the world's fourth largest oil exporter and an industry official told Reuters last month that Bandar Abbas was processing 320,000 barrels per day of crude.

PANIC

An Interior Ministry official told Reuters the quake was centred on Bander-e Khamir in the south of the country. "It might have damaged old parts of the place," the official said.

State radio reported people ran panicking into the streets.http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LA218124.htm