A 7.2 magnitude struck an area on the Iraq-Iran border after eight at night Baghdad time. The ripple affects of it were felt all the way to central Israel. Photos from the town of Darbandikhan show houses destroyed and dozens of injured pulled from rubble.
In Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government of northern Iraq many people reported buildings shaking and lights falling from fixtures. Video showed stores trashed as good fell from shelves. “It was like being in a boat in a storm,” one man wrote from the 15th floor of a building. People poured into the streets throughout the city. More than fifty people have been taken to hospital in Erbil with light injuries according to initial reports.
The earthquake’s epicenter was 100 km south of Sulaymaniyah, not far from the city of Halabja that was the site of the Halabja chemical weapons massacre in 1988. It is the largest earthquake to hit the region since the 7.7 magnitude earthquake in Saravan in 2013 in Iran which killed 35 people. According to the website earthquaketrack.com it is the largest earthquake to hit this border area of Iraq and Iran for more than 100 years. It was similar in strength to the 2011 Van earthquake in eastern Turkey that killed 604 people.
“I was at Madiji Mall on the third floor at a restaurant,” says Paul Iddon, a journalist based in Erbil. “Things started shaking, then the whole building started to move, chandeliers moving, that kind of thing.” Iddon says he paid and left to see what was happening. “A lot of people panicked and left but within five minutes everything was pretty much back to normal.” For some people the earthquake comes on top of many difficulties facing the Kurdistan region in recent months, including clashes with the Iraqi army and feelings of betrayal at the hands of the international community. “An earthquake hit all four parts of Kurdistan, finally something uniting us,” tweeted local Journalist Baxtiyar Goran. Another local Kurdish man took the moment to compare natural disasters with the Iranian-backed Shia militias and wrote “My mother told me ‘earthquake is not like Hashd al-Shaabi [Shia miliitas], when Hashd comes you can flee, but when earthquakes happen there is no place to flee.”
At least 145 people had been killed in Iraq and Iran, state media in both countries said.
Other sources but the numbers killed at 14 and those are likely to rise as emergency services reach the rural areas where it struck. Images from Sarpol Zahab in Kermanshah in Iraq show masses of destruction, streets full of rubble and dust. There are concerns that Mosul Dam, a dam upstream from the city of one million people, which has been in need of repair over the years could be affected by the earthquake.