Iraq-Iran earthquake: 'More than 140 dead and hundreds injured' after powerful 7.2 magnitude tremors strike near border

Iranian state television says a number of villages have been damaged

Sunday 12 November 2017 19:46
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Deadly earthquake on Iran-Iraq border disrupts live interview

More than 140 people have been killed and at least 860 believed to have been injured by tremors in Iran's Kermanshah province, according to state media, after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Iraq near to the Iran border.

Iran's state-run IRNA news agency reported the death toll, with rescuers said to be stepping up efforts to find dozens trapped under rubble in both countries.

“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

More than 60 of the victims were in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab, about 10 miles (15km) from the border.

Kurdish health officials also said at least four people were killed in Iraq and there were 50 injured.

The US Geological Survey said the epicentre was about 20 miles (32km) southwest of the city of Halabjah and measured 7.2. Over the border in Iran, the country's seismological centre said a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit Azgaleh.

State television quoted the head of the country's emergency medical services, Pirhossein Koulivand, as saying that the earthquake knocked out electricity in Iran's western cities of Mehran and Ilam. He also said 35 rescue teams were providing assistance.

The semi-official Iranian ILNA news agency reported that at least 14 provinces had been impacted earthquake. The semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted an emergency services official as saying there were fears that casualties in villages and small towns could be high.

Iranian social media was abuzz with posts of people evacuating their homes, especially from the cities of Ghasr-e Shirin - near the Iraqi border - and Kermanshah.

Iran is prone to near daily quakes as it sits on many major fault lines. In 2003, a 6.6 magnitude flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people. Many houses in rural parts of the province are made of mud bricks, which have been known to crumble easily in quake-prone Iran.

Water and electricity lines were severed in some villages and cities in the Western Kermanshah province and communities stayed out on the streets because of the threat from aftershocks, a local Red Crescent official told state TV.

The USGS issued an “orange” alert for “shaking-related fatalities and economic losses.” Iranian provinces in the northwestern, western and central areas of the country were impacted.

On the Iraqi side, the most extensive damage was in the town of Darbandikhan, around 50 miles (80km) east of the city of Sulaimaniyah in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.

More than 30 people were injured in the town, according to Kurdish Health Minister Rekawt Hama Rasheed. “The situation there is very critical,” Mr Rasheed told Reuters.

The district's main hospital was severely damaged and had no power 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!'”

There were similar scenes in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, and across other cities in northern Iraq, close to the quake's epicentre.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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