IRAQ/IRAN — More than 400 people were killed and over 6000 people were injured when a powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck near Iraq-Iran border on Sunday, authorities and state media in the two countries said.
On its website, the USGS placed the quake’s epicenter at about 18.6 miles southwest of the Iraqi city of Halabja.
The quake struck at around 10:00 pm as many residents were sleeping.
Iran’s western Kermanshah province, a rural mountainous region, bore the brunt of the temblor, with Iran’s state-run news agency reporting the quake killed 407 people in the country and injured another 6,700, Fox News reports.
In Iraq, the earthquake killed at least seven people and injured 535 there, all in the country’s northern, semiautonomous Kurdish region, according to Iraq’s Interior Ministry. Iraqi seismologist Abdul-Karim Abdullah Taqi, who runs the earthquake monitoring group at the state-run Meteorological Department, said the main reason for the lower casualty figure in Iraq was the angle and the direction of the fault line in this particular quake, as well as the nature of the Iraqi geological formations that could better absorb the shocks.
More than 100 aftershocks were felt after the quake that could be felt on the Mediterranean coast — about 660 miles away. It struck at a depth of 14.4 miles, a shallow depth that can cause broad damage. Magnitude 7 earthquakes on their own are capable of widespread, heavy damage. Iranian social media and news agencies showed images and videos of people fleeing their homes. Kokab Fard, a 49-year-old housewife in Sarpol-e-Zahab, said she could only flee empty-handed when her apartment complex collapsed.
7.2 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Iran Iraq and Kuwait ! 11/12/2017 (First Footage)
“328 Iranians die in massive
#earthquake that hit Iran-Iraq border. A three-day mourning was announced in Kermanshah province of Iran, which was hit hardest by the tremor #IraqEarthquake #IranEarthquake”
328 Iranians die in massive #earthquake that hit Iran-Iraq border. A three-day mourning was announced in Kermanshah province of Iran, which was hit hardest by the tremor #IraqEarthquake #IranEarthquake pic.twitter.com/KtTZhYCGFS
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) November 13, 2017
“Video captures bar patrons fleeing in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, when a 7.3-magnitude
#earthquake struck the city. About 130 people have died in Iraq and across the border in Iran #IraqEarthquake”
Video captures bar patrons fleeing in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, when a 7.3-magnitude #earthquake struck the city. About 130 people have died in Iraq and across the border in Iran #IraqEarthquake pic.twitter.com/DGhyWjW0AC
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) November 13, 2017
“Significant casualties and damage are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread,” the agency said online. “Past orange alerts have required a regional or national level response.”
In Iraq, the quake destroyed old houses in Sadr City and triggered supermarket damage in the area. Traffic across Baghdad was slowed to a standstill.
The health department in Baquba, Iraq, said that it had received more than 30 fainting cases. In Khanaqin, the quake hurt five people and the minaret of one of the city’s biggest mosques toppled to the ground.
Koulivand earlier told a local television station that the earthquake knocked out electricity in Iran’s western cities of Mehran and Ilam. He also said 35 rescue teams were providing assistance. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a phone call with the Interior Ministry emphasized the need for maximum effort from officials.
The semi-official Iranian ILNA news agency said at least 14 provinces in Iran had been affected by the earthquake.
Iran sits on many major fault lines and is prone to near-daily quakes. In 2003, a magnitude-6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people.
In the province of Sulaimaniyah, located in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, residents ran out onto the streets at the time of the quake and some minor property damage was recorded, an AFP reporter said.
— AFP Photo (@AFPphoto) November 13, 2017
In Iran, ISNA said the earthquake was felt in several cities in the west of the country including Tabriz, Channel News Asia reported.
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.
Turkish Red Crescent Chairman Kerem Kinik told broadcaster NTV that Red Crescent teams in Erbil were preparing to go to the site of the earthquake, and that Turkey’s national disaster management agency AFAD and National Medical Rescue Teams (UMKE) were also preparing to head into Iraq. AFAD’s chairman said the organisation was waiting for a reply to its offer for help.
In a tweet, Kinik said the Turkish Red Crescent was gathering 3,000 tents and heaters, 10,000 beds and blankets and moving them towards the Iraqi border.
“We are coordinating with Iranian and Iraqi Red Crescent groups. We are also getting prepared to make deliveries from our northern Iraq Erbil depot,” he said.
Israeli media said the quake was felt in many parts of Israel too.
The last major casualty earthquake in Iran struck in East Azerbaijan province in August 2012, killing over 300 people.
The Iraqi city of Halabja, closest to the epicenter, is notorious for the 1988 chemical attack in which Saddam Hussein’s regime killed some 5,000 people with mustard gas — the deadliest chemical weapons attack ever against civilians.
The death toll is expected to significantly rise as the likelihood of people being buried beneath the rubble will be found.