(TEHRAN, Iran) — Most of the 300 people killed by two powerful earthquakes that struck northwestern Iran last weekend were women and children, according to U.S. officials familiar with the rescue efforts. As many as 5,000 people were injured.
East Azerbaijan province is primarily inhabited by ethnic Azeris, one of Iran’s largest minority populations.
Six villages were completely destroyed while more than half of the 110 villages affected by the magnitude 6.3 and 6.4 temblors sustained damage of at least 50 percent.
While the Iranian government claims it does not need international help in dealing with the humanitarian crisis, the Obama administration says private citizens can make donations without fear of retribution.
The U.S. has leveled various economic sanctions against Iran to punish it for refusing to freeze its rogue nuclear program. That includes barring businesses from dealing with the Iranian government.
However, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland announced, “Americans wishing to provide humanitarian assistance to Iranians during this time may donate food and medicine without obtaining an Iranian transactions regulations license,” meaning exemptions are allowed because the aid goes directly to the victims, not the government.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Stephanie Halasz, Jason Hanna and Livia Borghese, CNN
Sugam Pokharel and Tim Hume, CNN