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Iraq-Iran earthquake: Death toll rises to 328, over 2,500 injured

Landslides have been hindering rescue efforts this morning.

Iran Iraq Earthquake Survivors of the earthquake warm themselves in the city of Sarpol-e-Zahab in western Iran. Source: Pouria Pakizeh via PA Images

Updated at 8.45am

THE DEATH TOLL of a major earthquake that hit the Iran-Iraq border overnight rose to 328 dead on the Iranian side of the border, the coroner’s office said.

At least another 2,530 were injured in the 7.3-magnitude quake that hit 30km southwest of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan at around 9.20pm (7.20pm Irish time) last night, when many people would have been at home, the US Geological Survey said.

A previous toll from earlier this morning stood at 207 dead and 1,700 wounded, suggesting that the figure could rise dramatically again.

Mojtaba Nikkerdar, the deputy governor of Kermanshah, said authorities there were “in the process of setting up three emergency relief camps”.

Iran’s emergency services chief Pir Hossein Koolivand said it was “difficult to send rescue teams to the villages because the roads have been cut off… there have been landslides”.

Iran Iraq Earthquake A car smashed by debris from the earthquake. Source: Pouria Pakizeh via PA Images

The official IRNA news agency said 30 Red Cross teams had been sent to the quake zone, parts of which had experienced power cuts.

In Iraq, officials said the quake had killed six people in the northern province of Sulaimaniyah and injured around 150.

Footage posted on Twitter showed panicked people fleeing a building in Sulaimaniyah, as windows shattered at the moment the quake struck, while images from the nearby town of Darbandikhan showed major walls and concrete structures had collapsed.

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 70km south of Darbandikhan, and 105 people injured.

Residents flee homes in Turkey

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

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 1,500km 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.

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.

- © AFP, 2017

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