Iran-Iraq earthquake: More than 300 dead as 7.3 magnitude earthquake strikes near border

Iran-Iraq earthquake: More than 300 dead as 7.3 magnitude earthquake strikes near borderAt least 328 people have been killed and more than 2,500 injured by a massive earthquake which struck on the Iran-Iraq border on Sunday night, according to the Iranian government.  The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.3 quake was centred 20 miles outside the Iraqi Kurdish city of Halabja, close to Iraq's northeastern border with Iran. The vast majority of the casualties appear to have been in western Iran and the Iranian coroner's office said 328 people had been killed and 2,530 were injured. Six people were reported dead on the Iraqi side.  Iranian rescue teams are rushing to try to find survivors but their efforts have been hampered by landslides which have cut off many rural areas. A collapsed house is seen hours after the 7.3 magnitude earthquake Credit: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Officials expected the casualty toll to rise when search and rescue teams reached remote areas of Iran. Sunday's earthquake was the deadliest earthquake in Iran since 2005, when 612 people were killed around the city of Zarand in southeastern Iran. The earthquake was felt in several provinces of Iran but the hardest hit province was Kermanshah, which announced three days of mourning. More than 97 of the victims were in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab in Kermanshah, about 15 km (10 miles) from the Iraq border. The main hospital of the town was severely damaged and struggling to treat hundreds of injured people, state television reported. Kurdish health officials also said at least four people were killed in Iraq and at least 50 injured. Graphic: Iraq 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!'" 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. Devastated families gather around one of the victims in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah Credit: Reuters There were similar scenes in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, and across other cities in northern Iraq, close to the quake's epicentre. The quake struck the mountainous area of Sulaimaniyah province at 9:18 pm (1818 GMT) at a depth of 15 miles, the monitor said. Footage posted on Twitter showed panicked people fleeing a building in Sulaimaniyah, as windows shattered at the moment the quake struck, while images from the nearby town of Darbandikhan showed major walls and concrete structures had collapsed. It was reportedly felt for about 20 seconds in Baghdad, and sometimes for longer in other provinces of Iraq. Mourners gather around the body of one of the victims Credit: Reuters Iranian social media was abuzz Sunday night with posts of people evacuating their homes, particularly in Kermanshah and Ghasr-e Shirin. The semi-official Iranian ILNA news agency said at least 14 provinces in Iran had been affected by the earthquake. Officials announced that schools in Kermanshah and Ilam provinces would be closed Monday because of the tremor. In southeastern Turkey, the earthquake was felt "from Malatya to Van", an AFP correspondent said. In the town of Diyarbakir, residents also left their homes before returning. The quake took place along a 1,500 kilometre fault line between the Arabia and Eurasia tectonic plates, a belt extending through western Iran and into northeastern Iraq, the US Geological Survey said. A 5.7 magnitude earthquake near Iran's border with Turkmenistan in May killed two people, injured hundreds and caused widespread damage, state media reported. In June 1990, a magnitude 7.4 quake struck 400 km to the northeast of  today's event, and caused between 40,000-50,000 fatalities, more than 60,000 injuries, and left more than 600,000 homeless in the in the Rasht-Qazvin-Zanjan area of Iran. The last major earthquake to strike Iran was a 2003 tremor in Bam, in the southeastern province of Kerman, which killed at least 31,000 people and flattened the city.

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