The number of people killed in an earthquake that struck Iran’s western province has risen to 407, officials have said.

Iranian state news said on Monday that most of the casualties are from the border town of Sarpol-e-Zahab in Kermanshah province. Behnam Saeedi, a spokesman for the country’s crisis management headquarters, was quoted by the semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies as saying the death toll was now 407.

A further 6,700 people have been injured, and the emergency services warned the toll was likely to increase as they gained access to more remote mountainous areas.

A total of 70,000 people are in need of emergency shelter across fourteen affected provinces around the country, the Iranian Red Crescent warned in a statement.

Rescue workers continued to search for survivors among the rubble of damaged homes throughout the day despite the difficulties posed by landslides and the health ministry put out a call for emergency blood donations. 

Dozens of buildings and the only hospital in the town of 30,000 people was also badly damaged by the tremors.

The earthquake struck near the Iraq-Iran border (US Geological Survey)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has offered his condolences and three days of mourning have been announced in Kermanshah. 

In Iraq, interior ministry spokesperson Brigadier General Saad Maan said seven people had died and 321 people were injured on the Iraqi side of the border in Iraq’s self-ruled northern Kurdish region. 

Turkey, despite recent tensions over the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government’s (KRG) controversial independence referendum, said on Monday it would send aid including tents, beds, heaters and food to help alleviate the situation, expressing “deep sadness” at the loss of life. 

The magnitude 7.3 quake was centered 19 miles (31 kilometres) outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, the US Geological Survey said. It struck at a relatively shallow depth of 14.4 miles (23.2 kilometres), which usually leads to broader surface-level damage, and tremors recorded as far west as the Israeli coast of the Mediterranean and as far south as Baghdad. 

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“I was sitting with my kids having dinner and suddenly the building was just dancing in the air,” Majida Ameer, who ran out of her Baghdad home, told Reuters. 

“I thought at first that it was a huge bomb. But then I heard everyone around me screaming: ‘Earthquake!'”

Iran, which sits on several geological fault lines, is prone to earthquakes. A magnitude 6.6 quake in 2003 killed 26,000 in the city of Bam. 

Electricity has been cut off in many cities across the two countries and fear of aftershocks has driven many people outside despite the cold November temperatures. 

Independent

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