From Fear to Ridicule: Iranians React to Last Night’s Earthquake (

14 minutes

From Fear to Ridicule: Iranians React to Last Night’s Earthquake 12 |

At 48 minutes past midnight on Friday, May 8, a fatal 5.1-magnitude earthquake shook Tehran and surrounding cities.

According to the Iranian Seismological Center, the epicenter was six kilometers from Damavand village in Tehran Province, 13 kilometers from the city of Rudehen and 16 kilometers from Bumhen. It was also felt in Qom, Qazvin and Babol and Babolsar in Mazdaran province.

Earlier today Mansour Darajati, director general of the Tehran Province Crisis Management Committee, said the quake had killed two people: a 60-year-old man who died while fleeing his home and a 21-year-old woman who suffered a cardiac arrest.

He added that the tremors had injured 23 others, of which 12 were not seriously hurt and 11 had been taken for medical treatment, who have since been discharged.

According to official reports, 34 aftershocks have been recorded since this morning after the earthquake on Friday morning. Emergency centers across Tehran province have been put on high alert.

The center had also recorded a magnitude 2.9 earthquake earlier that night, at around 11.30pm. Damavand was also reported to have also been the epicenter, but most Tehran residents said they did not feel this.

Residents who spoke to IranWire said the main quake was felt all over the city. Many fled their homes and gathered on the streets. "At first I was confused,” said one person in east Tehran, “but then I saw the chandelier shake, and the windows were shaking. It was frightening. I quickly made my way to the yard. All the neighbors ran downstairs and called each other."

"After the earthquake, nobody slept in Tehran anymore," one person said. "All the neighbors had come out. They were afraid they would fall asleep and face heavier aftershocks."

Reports received by IranWire indicate that many people spent the night on the streets and in their cars. Traffic on the streets and at gas stations increased significantly in the early hours of the morning, after the quake.

Dr. Hamidreza Nankeli, head of the geodetic department of Iran’s National Cartographic Center, said the cause of the Tehran earthquake had been the movement of the Mosha fault: a large seismic fault east of Tehran with an approximate length of 200km, which starts near Firuzkuh city and passes through Damavand and Bumhen, then northwards to Alborz province. Shortly after this announcement, Ali Moradi, director of the Seismological Center, said the fault had been activated 6km from Damavand.

The naming of the Mosha fault was cause for concern for those who had studied earthquakes around Tehran in the past. Some people took to Twitter to articulate their fears. History researcher Farzaneh Ebrahimzadeh wrote: "The last major earthquake in Tehran was in 1830, with a magnitude of 7.2, and happened on the Mosha fault."

Another wrote: "I don't want to frighten you, but please take tonight seriously. This tremor was felt due to the activation of the Mosha fault. This fault is in collision with the [North] Tehran fault and could shift and activate it, which means there is the possibility of a severe earthquake."

Not all social media users, though, addressed issues related to the earthquake in such a serious manner, with jokes about the incident surfacing all over Twitter, Instagram and Telegram. Cataclysmic events in Iran – from the killing of demonstrators by government forces to the Revolutionary Guards striking down a passenger plane, to the outbreak of coronavirus and now, latently, an earthquake – have been occurring one after another, domino-like, since last November and have long been the subject of bitter satire.

"Now, the IRGC would rocket our house," wrote one facetious user.

Another wrote: "The earthquake came, and I was shocked and went to wash my hands. God, tell us what to do."

"My uncle's house is in a 30-40 units building,” wrote yet another Twitter user. “There is a glass door in the entrance hall. He says ‘We saw that the door was locked and the neighbors all lined up next to each other. We told the person in front of the door to open it; he said no, because he didn’t have a glove on!’"

In an oblique reference to the recent rainfall, another Iranian social media user wrote: "When the Friday prayers were interrupted, there were all sorts of blessings falling from the sky. As soon as they said that the prayers might restart, there was an earthquake just the night before."

Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, congregations and Friday prayers have been closed across Iran. After several weeks, mosques and religious sites have now reopened in some cities and Friday prayers were scheduled to be held in some cities this morning.

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