Strong earthquake hits Iraq and Iran, killing more than 400

ANKARA/BAGHDAD (Reuters) - More than 400 people were killed in Iran when a magnitude 7.3 earthquake jolted the country, state media said on Monday, and rescuers were searching for dozens trapped under rubble in the mountainous area. At least six have died in Iraq as well.

State television said more than 407 people were killed in Iran’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade and at least 6,600 were injured. Local officials said the death toll would rise as search and rescue teams reached remote areas of Iran.

The earthquake, which struck on Sunday, was felt in several western provinces of Iran but the hardest hit province was Kermanshah. More than 300 of the victims were in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah province, about 15 km (10 miles) from the Iraq border.

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

See images of the scene:

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Earthquake hits Iran-Iraq border killing at least 61
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Earthquake hits Iran-Iraq border killing at least 61
SULAYMANIYAH, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 12: People carry a wounded person for treatment at Sulaymaniyah Hospital after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit northern Iraq in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq on November 12, 2017. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SULAYMANIYAH, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 12: People carry a wounded person for treatment at Sulaymaniyah Hospital after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit northern Iraq in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq on November 12, 2017. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SULAYMANIYAH, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 12: Wounded people arrive to receive treatment at Sulaymaniyah Hospital after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit northern Iraq in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq on November 12, 2017. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SULAYMANIYAH, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 12: A woman with a wheel chair is seen at Sulaymaniyah Hospital after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit northern Iraq in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq on November 12, 2017. (Photo by Feriq Ferec/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
An earthquake victim is aided at Sulaimaniyah Hospital on November 12, 2017, in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq. Officials in Iran reports at least 30 dead and Iraqi officials 6. The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.3 temblor was centred 30kms (19 miles) southwest of Halabja, Iraq, near the border with Iran. / AFP PHOTO / SHWAN MOHAMMED (Photo credit should read SHWAN MOHAMMED/AFP/Getty Images)
A child injured in the earthquake waits for aid at Sulaimaniyah Hospital on November 12, 2017, in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq. Officials in Iran reports at least 30 dead in that country. The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.3 temblor was centred 30kms (19 miles) southwest of Halabja, Iraq, near the border with Iran. / AFP PHOTO / SHWAN MOHAMMED (Photo credit should read SHWAN MOHAMMED/AFP/Getty Images)
An earthquake victim is aided at Sulaimaniyah Hospital on November 12, 2017, in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq. Officials in Iran reports at least 30 dead and Iraqi officials 6. The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.3 temblor was centred 30kms (19 miles) southwest of Halabja, Iraq, near the border with Iran. / AFP PHOTO / SHWAN MOHAMMED (Photo credit should read SHWAN MOHAMMED/AFP/Getty Images)
A man reacts following an earthquake in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah, Iran November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tasnim News Agency ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Goods lie on the ground in a market shop following an earthquake in the town of Darbandikhan, near the city of Sulaimaniyah, in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, Iraq November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed
People walk past a damaged building following an earthquake in the town of Darbandikhan, near the city of Sulaimaniyah, in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, Iraq November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed
A damaged building is seen following an earthquake in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah, Iran November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tasnim News Agency ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
A woman reacts next to a dead body following an earthquake in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah, Iran November 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tasnim News Agency ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
A woman stands in the yard next to her damaged home in the mountainous town of Darbandikhan in Iraqi Kurdistan on November 13, 2017, following a 7.3-magnitude quake that hit the Iraq-Iran border area. / AFP PHOTO / SHWAN MOHAMMED (Photo credit should read SHWAN MOHAMMED/AFP/Getty Images)
People inspect a damaged building in the mountainous town of Darbandikhan in Iraqi Kurdistan on November 13, 2017, following a 7.3-magnitude quake that hit the Iraq-Iran border area. / AFP PHOTO / SHWAN MOHAMMED (Photo credit should read SHWAN MOHAMMED/AFP/Getty Images)
KERMANSHAH, IRAN - NOVEMBER 13: A car is trapped under the rubble in Sarpol-e Zahab town of Kermanshah, Iran on November 13, 2017 following a 7.3 magnitude earthquake that hit the Iraq and Iran. An earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale rocked northern Iraq and Iran, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Sunday evening. Turkish paramedic teams and rescue teams dispatched to the disaster area under the coordination of Turkish aid agencies; AFAD (Turkey's Disaster Management Agency) and Kizilay (Turkish Red Crescent). At least 211 died and 2,504 others were injured in Iran's bordering regions, especially in Kermanshah province in west. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KERMANSHAH, IRAN - NOVEMBER 13: A man is seen inside of a partially collapsed building in Sarpol-e Zahab town of Kermanshah, Iran on November 13, 2017 following a 7.3 magnitude earthquake that hit the Iraq and Iran. An earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale rocked northern Iraq and Iran, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Sunday evening. Turkish paramedic teams and rescue teams dispatched to the disaster area under the coordination of Turkish aid agencies; AFAD (Turkey's Disaster Management Agency) and Kizilay (Turkish Red Crescent). At least 211 died and 2,504 others were injured in Iran's bordering regions, especially in Kermanshah province in west. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
KERMANSHAH, IRAN - NOVEMBER 13: Civilians and soldiers search for the possible survivors trapped under the debris in Sarpol-e Zahab town of Kermanshah, Iran on November 13, 2017 following a 7.3 magnitude earthquake that hit the Iraq and Iran. An earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale rocked northern Iraq and Iran, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Sunday evening. Turkish paramedic teams and rescue teams dispatched to the disaster area under the coordination of Turkish aid agencies; AFAD (Turkey's Disaster Management Agency) and Kizilay (Turkish Red Crescent). At least 211 died and 2,504 others were injured in Iran's bordering regions, especially in Kermanshah province in west. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SULAYMANIYAH, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 13: A collapsed house is seen, after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit northern Iraq, in Derbendihan district of Sulaymaniyah, Iraq on November 13, 2017. An earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale rocked northern Iraq and Iran, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Sunday evening. At least 61 people were killed and more than 300 others injured in Iran's border areas, according to information provided by the concerned authorities, said Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency. (Photo by Yunus Keles/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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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. At least 14 provinces in Iran had been affected, Iranian media reported.

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

ANGRY PEOPLE

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake measured magnitude 7.3. An Iraqi meteorology official put its magnitude at 6.5, with the epicenter 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 the twisted rubble of collapsed buildings. State TV aired footage of damaged 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, adding that in northern Iraq Kurdish districts seven were killed and 325 wounded.

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.

“The situation there is very critical,” Kurdish Health Minister Rekawt Hama Rasheed told Reuters.

The district’s main hospital was damaged and had no power, 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 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 epicenter.

NO SHELTER

Iran sits astride major fault lines and is prone to frequent tremors. A magnitude 6.6 quake on Dec. 26, 2003, devastated the historic city of Bam, 1,000 km southeast of Tehran, killing about 31,000 people.

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, 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. More than 70,000 people needed emergency shelter, the head of Iranian Red Crescent said.

Hojjat Gharibian, one of hundreds of homeless Iranian survivors, was huddled against the cold with his family in Qasr-e Shirin.

“My two children were sleeping when the house started to collapse because of the quake. I took them and ran to the street. We spent hours in the street until aid workers moved us into a school building,” Gharibian told Reuters by telephone.

Iran’s police, Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia forces were sent to quake-hit areas overnight, state TV reported.

Aid workers handed out water to people, while bulldozers worked to clear the streets in damaged areas.

A local official said aftershocks slowed down erecting tents for homeless people but electricity had been restored in most of the quake-hit areas.

“The main problem is sheltering people at this cold weather. We need more tents,” Qasr-e Shririn governor Faramarz Akbari told TV. Tasnim news agency said Iran’s gas exports to Iraq was not interrupted because of the quake.

TURKEY AND ISRAEL

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.

Kinik said the Turkish Red Crescent was gathering 3,000 tents and heaters, 10,000 beds and blankets and moving them toward the Iraqi border.

“We are coordinating with Iranian and Iraqi Red Crescent groups. We are also getting prepared to make deliveries from our northern Iraq Erbil depot,” he said.

Israeli media said the quake was felt in many parts of Israel as well.

Writing by Parisa Hafezi, reporting by Raya Jalabi and Ahmed Rasheed in Iraq, Bozorgmeh Sharafedin in Londn, Tuvan Gumrukcu and Irem Koca in Ankara, Dan Williams in Jerusalem, and Dubai newsroom; Editing by Peter Cooney, Bill Tarrant, Larry King

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