Rescuers battle to find survivors trapped under collapsed buildings after the 7.3 magnitude quake
More than 140 people have been killed in Iran and Iraq after a magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit the border region between the two countries, state media said.
At least 141 people were killed in Iran, according to the country’s disaster management organisation, after the quake struck the region at 9.20pm local time on Sunday. More than 850 were injured, the organisation’s spokesman, Behnam Saeedi, told state television.
Rescuers worked through the night to find people trapped in collapsed buildings after the earthquake, which was felt as far west as the coast of the Mediterranean.
It affected several Iranian provinces and the deputy governor of Kermanshah province on the Iraqi border told state television that the death toll would rise.
“There are still people under the rubble. We hope the number of dead and injured won’t rise too much, but it will rise,” Mojtaba Nikkerdar said.
Nearly 100 of the victims were in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab, about 15km (10 miles) from the border. The main hospital of the town was severely damaged and struggling to treat hundreds of injured people, state television reported.
Officials in Iraq reported that at least six people had died and 50 injured.
The US Geological Survey said the quake measured magnitude 7.3, while an Iraqi meteorology official put its magnitude at 6.5 with the epicentre in Penjwin in Sulaimaniyah province in the Kurdistan region close to the main border crossing with Iran. It struck 23.2km below the surface, a shallow depth that can have broader damage.
The electricity was cut off in several Iranian and Iraqi cities, and fears of aftershocks sent thousands of people in both countries out onto the streets and parks in cold weather.
“The night has made it difficult for helicopters to fly to the affected areas and some roads are also cut off… we are worried about remote villages,” Iranian interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said in an interview on state television.
Many houses in rural parts of the province are made of mud bricks and are known to crumble easily in the earthquake-prone region.
On the Iraqi side, the most extensive damage was in the town of Darbandikhan, 75km east of the city of Sulaimaniyah in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, where the mayor told AFP that four people had died.
A child and an elderly person were killed in Kalar, according to the director of the hospital in the town about 70km south of Darbandikhan, and 105 people injured, AFP said.
Kurdish health minister Rekawt Hama Rasheed told Reuters the situation in Darbandikhan was “very critical”. The district’s main hospital was severely damaged and had no power, Rasheed said, so the injured were being taken to Sulaimaniyah for treatment. There was extensive structural damage to buildings and homes.
In Halabja, local officials said a 12-year-old boy died from an electric shock when an electric cable fell during the earthquake.
Many residents in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, rushed out of houses and tall buildings in panic.
“I was sitting with my kids having dinner and suddenly the building was just dancing in the air,” said Majida Ameer, who ran out of her building in the capital’s Salihiya district with her three children. “I thought at first that it was a huge bomb. But then I heard everyone around me screaming: ‘Earthquake!’”
Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.