Two powerful earthquakes have hit Iran just minutes apart, killing and wounding hundreds of people. Relief efforts have been hampered by downed telecommunications.
The Iranian Interior Ministry on Sunday revised the death toll down to 227 from 250 after two devastating earthquakes hit the country's northwest over the weekend.
Interior Minister Moustafa Mohammad-Najjar also told state television that search and rescue operations had ended.
"Search and rescue operations have ended and we are now working to ensure survivors' needs in terms of shelter and food," Mohammad-Najjar said.
Officials said panicked residents fled into the streets as the powerful 6.4-magnitude quake hit at 4.53 p.m. local time on Saturday. An aftershock measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale was reported 11 minutes later, according to measurements taken by the US Geological Survey.
Epicenter near Tabriz
The epicenter of the quake was 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Tabriz, close to the town of Ahar. Both tremors occurred at a depth of 10 kilometers. A series of 20 smaller aftershocks rapidly followed the first two, officials said.
Tabriz, home to 1.5 million people, managed to escape relatively unscathed except for a few obvious cracks in buildings, said officials at Tehran University's Seismological Center.
Mohammad-Najjar said that around 300 villages located in the earthquake zone had suffered damage or had been destroyed.
Regional Governor Ahmad Alireza Beigi told state media "nearby villages were a source of concern," as the earthquake broke telephone communications, making relief efforts problematic.
"Our access to the villages has been cut and we can only contact them by radio transceiver," Mahmoud Mozaffar, head of Iran's Rescue and Relief Organization of the Red Crescent society, told ISNA. "Helicopters and rescuers are on their way to villages."
German aid offer
Germany has offered its condolences and aid to Iran after the devastating earthquakes.
In a letter to his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle expressed his "shock" at the disaster.
"I extend my deep sympathies to the people who have lost their loved ones and belongings during the holy month of Ramadan," Westerwelle wrote.
"I wish the injured a quick recovery. Rest assured that Germany stands ready to help your country in this difficult time," he added.
Iran straddles several major fault lines and has suffered a number of quakes in recent times. The last serious one struck the city of Bam in 2003, when more than 25,000 lost their lives.
tj,jlw/slk (Reuters, AP, dpa, AFPD)
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