Strong earthquake hits Iran-Iraq border, kills 145
A powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake has hit the border region between Iran and Iraq, killing at least 145 people, almost all of them in Iran.
The epicenter of the quake, which occurred at around 09:18 pm local time on Sunday (0040 GMT on Monday), was 32 kilometers south of the Iraqi city of Halabja, in Iraqi Kurdistan, and just across the border from Iran, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
But the highest casualties occurred in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab, in Iran’s Kermanshah Province.
Behnam Sa’eedi, a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Organization (NDMO) of Iran, said on Monday morning that 141 Iranians had been confirmed dead until then. Another 1,684 people had been injured, he said.
Sa’eedi had said earlier that the death toll could rise.
According to the NDMO, power cuts had been reported in Kermanshah and houses in some western Iranian villages have been damaged to various degrees.
Soon after the quake occurred, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei issued a message calling on all Iranian officials and institutions to “rush to the aid of those affected in these early hours [after the incident].”
The Leader said the country’s entire range of capabilities had to be used swiftly to prevent a further rise in the death toll.
Ayatollah Khamenei called on Iran’s Armed Forces to help with removing the rubble and transferring the injured to medical centers.
Separately, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke on the phone with Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli on Sunday night, who briefed the president on the latest updates. President Rouhani then issued the necessary directives to facilitate and accelerate rescue operations.
Three days of mourning have been announced in Kermanshah.
The earthquake was felt in cities in several other Iranian Provinces, including as far away as in the capital, Tehran.
The quake also shook the Iranian provinces of Kordestan, Ilam, Khuzestan, Hamedan, West Azarbaijan, East Azarbaijan, Lorestan, Qazvin, Zanjan, and Qom.
The quake was also felt in other regional countries, including as Turkey, Kuwait, Armenia, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain.
But the casualties and damage were limited to Iran and Iraq.
Reports said four people had been killed in Iraq.
In Iraq, the most extensive damage was in the town of Darbandikhan, 75 kilometers east of the city of Sulaymaniyah, in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.
According to Kurdish Health Minister Rekawt Hama Rasheed, over 30 people were wounded in the town. “The situation there is very critical,” he said.