A 7.3 magnitude earthquake rocked the mountainous Iran-Iraq border, killing over 300 people, injuring hundreds more and triggering landslides that were hindering the rescue effort, officials said.
Footage posted on Twitter showed people fleeing a building in Sulaimaniyah, northern Iraq, as windows shattered at the moment the quake struck late on Sunday, while images from the nearby town of Darbandikhan showed major walls and concrete structures had collapsed.
“We are in the process of setting up three emergency relief camps,” said Mojtaba Nikkerdar, the deputy governor of Iran’s Kermanshah province.
The quake hit 30 km southwest of Halabja in Iraq’s Kurdistan at around 9.20 pm, when many people would have been at home, the US Geological Survey said. Iran’s emergency services chief Pir Hossein Koolivand said it was “difficult to send rescue teams to the villages because the roads have been cut off… there have been landslides”.
Iran-Iraq earthquake live updates:
3.00 pm: Turkey has dispatched emergency aid to northern Iraq. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said his country has immediately taken action to provide medical and food aid to northern Iraq.
Kerem Kinik, Turkish Red Crescent’s vice president, told The Associated Press from Habur border crossing that 33 aid trucks were en route to Iraq’s city of Sulaimaniyah, carrying 3,000 tents and heaters, 10,000 beds and blankets as well as food.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s government also extended its deepest condolences for the loss of life and injuries suffered by “our Iranian and Iraqi brethren.”
Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said Pakistanis’ “thoughts and prayers are with the Iranian and Iraqi brothers who lost their lives in this tragic calamity and we pray for the speedy recovery of the injured.”
2.00 pm: AFP, citing Iran’s state-run news agency, says that toll has now risen to 328 and over 2,500 are injured.
1.30 pm: Last night, Iranian social media was flooded with images and videos of panic-stricken people running out of their homes. The country experienced at least 50 aftershocks.
The powerful quake was felt as far as south of Baghdad in Iraq.
“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!'”
12. 30 pm: Iraq’s Interior Ministry says seven people were killed in Iraq as a result of last night’s earthquake along the Iran-Iraq border.
12.00 pm: In Iraq, the ministry’s spokesman, Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, said on Monday that 321 people were injured on the Iraqi side. Maan says all the casualties are in Iraq’s self-ruled northern Kurdish region.
11.32 am: News agency AFP, citing an Iran official, reported that the death toll rose to 207 and 1,700 have been injured in the earthquake.
“My thoughts are with all those who have lost their loved ones in the tragic earthquake that has affected parts of Iran and Iraq. I pray that those injured recover at the earliest,” he tweeted.
11.00 am: The deputy head of Iranian government’s crisis unit, Behnam Saidi told state media that at least 164 people are confirmed dead and over 1,686 people injured.
Mojtaba Nikkerdar, the deputy governor of Iran’s Kermanshah province, said the local administration is in the process of setting up three emergency relief camps.
10.30 am: The AFP is reporting that the death toll has now increased to 164.
10.00 am: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered his condolences this morning and urged rescuers and all government
agencies to do all they could to help those affected, state media reported.
9.30 am: Meanwhile in Latin America, a strong earthquake of magnitude 6.5 quake struck Costa Rica coast. Tremors were felt in the capital city, San Jose, sending people rushing out in panic. Associated Press reported that power line has been knocked down in a few areas, but there were no reports of major infrastructure damage so far.
9.15 am: News agency ILNA reported that at least 14 provinces in Iran were affected by the earthquake. Schools in Kermanshah and Ilam provinces will be closed today after the region experienced strong tremors on Sunday.
9.00 am: The death toll has risen above 140, according to Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency. The number of injured in last night’s earthquake has also gone up to 860 people. Rescue workers have worked through the night and they will step up operations in the day, it reported.
The worst-hit towns in Iran were Qasr-e Shirin in Kermanshah and Azgaleh, about 40 km northwest, IRNA said. It added that 30 Red Cross teams had been sent to the quake zone, parts of which had experienced power cuts. In Iraq, officials said the quake had killed six people in Sulaimaniyah province and injured around 150. Residents ran out on to the streets and some damage to property was reported, an AFP reporter said.
“Four people were killed by the earthquake” in Darbandikhan, the town’s mayor Nasseh Moulla Hassan said. A child and an elderly person were killed in Kalar and 105 people injured. The quake, which struck at a relatively shallow depth of 25 km, was felt for about 20 seconds in Baghdad, and for longer in other provinces of Iraq.
On the Iranian side of the border, the tremor shook several cities in the west of the country, including Tabriz. It was also felt in southeastern Turkey, “from Malatya to Van”, an AFP correspondent said. In the town of Diyarbakir, residents were reported to have fled their homes.
The quake struck along a 1,500 km fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates, a belt extending through western Iran and into northeastern Iraq. The area sees frequent seismic activity. A catastrophic quake that struck Bam, in Iran in 2003 killed at least 31,000 people and flattened the city. Since then, Iran has experienced at least two major quake disasters, one in 2005 that killed more than 600 and another in 2012 that left some 300 dead. More recently, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake near Iran’s border with Turkmenistan in May killed two people, injured hundreds and caused widespread damage.