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415 killed in quake along Iran-Iraq border

A man reacts as he looks at a damaged building in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah, Iran November on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Teams of Iranian rescuers dug through rubble in a hunt for survivors on Monday after a major earthquake struck the Iran-Iraq border, killing at least 415 people and injuring thousands.

The 7.3-magnitude quake rocked a border area 30 km southwest of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan at around 9.20 p.m. (1820 GMT) on Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Many people would have been at home when the quake hit in Iran’s western Province of Kermanshah, about 15 km from the Iraq border, where authorities said it killed at least 407 people and injured 6,700.

Iranian state television said the quake had caused heavy damage in some villages where houses were made of earthen bricks. Rescuers were labouring to find survivors trapped under collapsed buildings.

Pulled out alive

Iranian media reported that a woman and her baby were pulled out alive from the rubble on Monday in Sarpol-e Zahab, the worst hit area with a population of 85,000.

The quake also triggered landslides that hindered rescue efforts, officials told state television.

 

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered his condolences on Monday, urging all government agencies to do all they could to help those affected.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake measured magnitude 7.3. An Iraqi meteorology official put its magnitude at 6.5, with the epicentre in Penjwin in Sulaimaniyah Province in the Kurdistan region, close to the main border crossing with Iran.

Tempers frayed in the quake-hit area as the search went on for survivors amidst twisted rubble of collapsed buildings. State TV aired footage of disfigured buildings, vehicles under rubble and wounded people wrapped in blankets.

“We need a shelter,” a middle-aged man in Sarpol-e Zahab told state TV. “Where is the aid? Where is the help?” His family could not spend another night outside in cold weather, he said.

Kurdish health officials said at least six people were killed in Iraq and at least 68 injured. Iraq’s health and local officials said the worst-hit area was Darbandikham district, near the border with Iran, where at least 10 houses had collapsed and the district’s only hospital was severely damaged.

Situation in Iraq

“The situation there is very critical,” Kurdish Health Minister Rekawt Hama Rasheed told Reuters. The district’s main hospital was severely damaged and had no power, Mr. Rasheed said, so the injured were taken to Sulaimaniyah for treatment. Homes and buildings had extensive structural damage, he said.

The quake was felt as far south as Baghdad, where many residents rushed from their houses and tall buildings when tremors shook the Iraqi capital. “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’!”

Similar scenes unfolded in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, and across other cities in northern Iraq, close to the quake’s epicentre.

Iraq’s meteorology centre advised people to stay away from buildings and not to use elevators in case of aftershocks.

Electricity and water was cut off in several Iranian and Iraqi cities, and fears of aftershocks sent thousands of people in both countries out onto the streets and parks in cold weather.

Across the area, thousands of rescue workers and special teams using sniffer dogs and heat sensors searched wreckage. Blocked roads made it hard for rescue workers to reach some remote villages. Iranian authorities acknowledged the relief effort was still slow and patchy.

Iran’s police, the elite Revolutionary Guards and its affiliated Basij militia forces were dispatched to the quake-hit areas overnight, state TV reported. President Hassan Rouhani is expected to visit the Kermanshah province, TV reported.

An official said pipelines and refineries in the area remained intact.

Effect on Turkey

Residents of Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir also reported feeling a strong tremor, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties there.

Turkish Red Crescent Chairman Kerem Kinik told broadcaster NTV that Red Crescent teams in Erbil were preparing to go to the site of the earthquake and that Turkey’s national disaster management agency, AFAD, and National Medical Rescue Teams were also preparing to head into Iraq.

Israeli media said the quake was felt in many parts of Israel as well. In a statement, Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said, “My condolences to the people of Iran and Iraq over the loss of human life caused by the earthquake.”

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 3:40:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/powerful-earthquake-on-iran-iraq-border-kills-over-330/article20379145.ece

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