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Death toll from Iran-Iraq earthquake climbs to at least 207

1,600 people injured in tremor, felt across region, as rural Iranian region digs out from 7.3 magnitude quake

TEHRAN — A powerful earthquake shook the Iran-Iraq border late Sunday, killing 207 people and injuring 1,686 in the mountainous region of Iran alone, Iranian state media said.

The magnitude 7.3 quake was centered 19 miles (31 kilometers) outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the most recent measurements from the U.S. Geological Survey. It struck at a depth of 23.2 kilometers (14.4 miles), a shallow depth that can have broader damage. Magnitude 7 earthquakes on their own are capable of widespread, heavy damage.

The temblor was felt as far as Tel Aviv and other areas of Israel, where high rise-dwellers filmed swaying light fixtures, but no damage or injuries were reported.

The Baghdad government did not immediately give word on casualties in that country, though Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued a directive for the country’s civil defense teams and “related institutions” to respond to the natural disaster.

The worst damage appeared to be in Iran’s western Kermanshah province, which sits in the Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and Iraq. Residents in the rural area rely mainly on farming to make a living.

Iranian social media and news agencies showed images and videos of people fleeing their homes into the night. Some 50 aftershocks followed.

Iran’s state-run television reported the increase in casualties early on Monday and said rescue work was continuing overnight and would accelerate during the daytime.

People stand in the street after feeling aftershocks from an earthquake in Baghdad, Iraq, November 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered his condolences on Monday morning and urged rescuers and all government agencies to do all they could to help those affected, state media reported.

The semi-official 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 on Monday because of the temblor.

Iraqi media reported that six people died and dozens were injured in Iraq’s northeastern province, closest to the epicenter of the quake.

In Sulaimaniyah, residents ran out onto the streets and some damage to property was reported, an AFP reporter there said.

“Four people were killed by the earthquake” in Darbandikhan, the town’s mayor Nasseh Moulla Hassan told AFP.

A child and an elderly person were killed in Kalar, according to the director of the hospital in the town about 70 kilometers south of Darbandikhan, and 105 people injured.

Residents huddle by a fire in an open area following a 7.3-magnitude earthquake at Sarpol-e Zahab in Iran’s Kermanshah province on November 13, 2017. (AFP/ISNA /POURIA PAKIZEH)

The quake could be felt across Iraq, shaking buildings and homes from Irbil to Baghdad and as far west as Anbar province.

The prime minister sought to reassure Iraqi civilians of their safety following the earthquake.

Al-Abadi said he was following the matter and issuing a directive for the country’s civil defense teams and “related institutions” to respond to the natural disaster, according to a statement released by his office late Sunday night.

Al-Abadi added in his written statement: “God save Iraq and the Iraqi people.”

Residents flee homes in Turkey

The quake, which struck at a relatively shallow depth of 25 kilometers, was felt for about 20 seconds in Baghdad, and for longer in other provinces of Iraq, AFP journalists said.

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 kilometer 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.

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. The last major casualty earthquake in Iran struck in East Azerbaijan province in August 2012, killing over 300 people.

In 1990, a 7.4-magnitude quake near the Caspian sea in northern Iran killed 40,000 people and left 300,000 more injured and half a million homeless. Within seconds the quake reduced dozens of towns and nearly 2,000 villages to rubble.

Thirteen years later, a catastrophic quake struck the ancient southeast Iranian city of Bam, famed for its mud brick buildings, killing at least 31,000 people and flattening swathes of 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.

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