M6.3 Earthquake Strikes Iran Coast near Nuclear Plant, Minimal Insured Losses Expected

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Iran EarthquakeAccording to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, this morning, an M6.3 earthquake struck 55 miles southeast of Bandar Bushehr near Iran’s southwest coast, however insurance losses are expected to be minimal.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the earthquake occurred at 3:22 p.m. local time (11:52:50 UTC) and struck at a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles). The main shock was followed by six aftershocks, according to the Iran Seismological Centre, the strongest of which was M5.3.

According to AIR, with its epicenter located at 28.5° North latitude and 51.59° East longitude, the event rattled windows and caused chandeliers to shake in Bandar Bushehr; there were reports of buildings shaking in other Gulf countries, including Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. Workers in Qatar were reported to have been evacuated from high-rise buildings as a precautionary measure.

Notably, shaking was felt at Iran’s sole nuclear power station, about 18 km (11 miles) south of Bandar Bushehr, but operations were reported to be unaffected. The Russian company that built the nuclear reactor claims that the situation is normal there: employees continue to work and radiation is within normal levels.

Two helicopters were sent to survey the damage in the affected area. Traditional residential structures in Iran are typically of adobe construction, which exhibits very poor seismic performance. Significant structural damage and collapse is possible under strong ground shaking. In 2006, the M6.6 Bam, Iran earthquake destroyed some 50,000 homes.

According to AIR, the seismotectonics of southern Iran are dominated by the convergence between Arabian and Eurasian plates. The M6.3 earthquake that struck southern Iran today occurred as a result of northeast-southwest oriented thrust-type motion in the shallow crust of the Arabian plate. Today’s event was an intraplate event, occurring almost 300 km south of the main plate boundary, but it will be difficult to identify the fault that caused it, as this event likely did not break the surface.

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