More Than 300 Dead after Earthquake in Iran and Iraq

Iranian rescuers search the wreckage of a building in the city of Pole-Zahab in Kermanshah Province, Iran, 13 November 2017. (Photo by ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

At least 387 people were killed and 7000 were injured in an earthquake that struck the northern border area between Iran and Iraq. Many buildings and homes were destroyed. Rescue and emergency services are searching for survivors in the rubble and authorities fear that the number of victims could rise further.

The US Geological Survey said the quake measured magnitude 7.3. An Iraqi meteorology official put its magnitude at 6.5, with the epicenter in Penjwin in Sulaimaniyah province in the Kurdistan region, close to the main border crossing with Iran.The quake hit at 21:16 local time. according to USGS, and it struck at a depth of 23.2 kilometers, a shallow depth that probably led to a broader damage.

Iran the hardest hit

Most of the victims are in Iran. Particularly hard hit was Sarpol-e Zahab, a city in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah, according to the semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency. The authorities said that at least 236 people had died in the city, which has a population of 30,000, and the main hospital was believed to be at least partly running.

“There has been no help yet, neither food nor water, no clothing, no tents, there is nothing. There are no facilities yet. We’ve slept outside since last night. This is the condition of our homes. Our electricity, water, gas, phone lines are out, everything is completely out, the whole city has been destroyed, it is wrecked,” one of the residents said for the New York Times.

Iranian authorities acknowledged the relief effort was still slow and patchy. The Iranian seismological center registered around 153 aftershocks and said more were expected. More than 70,000 people needed emergency shelter, the head of Iranian Red Crescent said.

Map of the earthquake hit zones. Source: US Geological Survey

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered a message of condolence on Monday, urging rescue workers to keep searching for survivors. “The officials should hasten in these first hours with all their might and determination to help the injured, especially those trapped under the rubble,” his office announced.

Iran’s police, the elite Revolutionary Guards and its affiliated Basij militia forces were dispatched to the quake-hit areas overnight, state TV reported.

Shaking during TV interview

Initial reports from the Kurdish region of Iraq indicated less damage and fewer deaths on that side of the border. In Sulaimaniya, the second-largest city in Iraq’s Kurdish region, residents described feeling heavy tremors but said there was no notable building damage. Residents in the oil-rich town of Kirkuk, roughly 50 miles to the west, reported similar damage.

The tremor was apparent during a TV interview on one of the Kurdish station.

Yaseen Abbas of the Iraqi Red Crescent Society told the BBC that 425 people had been wounded in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, where Turkey has already delivered aid. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at least 50 trucks with aid have been sent to the hit region.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued a directive for the country’s civil defense teams and related institutions to respond to the natural disaster. The quake could be felt across Iraq, shaking buildings and homes from Irbil to Baghdad, where people fled into the streets of the capital.

Region prone to tremors

In general terms, the big driver for earthquakes in Iran is the clash between the Arabia and Eurasia tectonic plates, according to BBC science correspondent Jonathan Amos. The former is pushing north by a couple of centimeters a year.

In the south-east of the country, the Arabia plate is actually pushing under the Eurasia plate, but in the north-west, these great slabs rub directly against each other. The Zagros mountains are a result of all this compression.

Sunday’s quake is the deadliest to hit Iran since 2012.

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