7.3 magnitude earthquake kills 328 Iranians in Iran-Iraq border
TEHRAN, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) -- At least 328 Iranians died in a huge 7.3 magnitude earthquake that hit the Iran-Iraq border area on Sunday, official IRNA news agency reported on Monday.
The quake also injured nearly 4,000 people, the report said.
The quake's epicenter was located approximately 32 km south of the city of Halabja in a remote mountainous region of eastern Iraq, some 200 km north-east of Baghdad and 400 km west of Tehran, according to the United States Geological Survey.
The quake hit the area at 9:18 p.m. local time (0018 GMT), when many people would have been at home, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
The tremor was felt in several Iranian provinces bordering Iraq including the capital, Tehran.
Over 20 Iranian villages in Iran's Kermanshah province have been damaged and power and water flows disrupted. The roads networks in the area have sustained damage.
However, the provincial police chief, General Manouchehr Amanollahi said Monday that all roads are open and the traffic flow is normal.
Also, officials said the access to rural areas is still limited.
Iranian emergency teams have been dispatched to the quake-hit region and helicopters are delivering basic needs. There are also strong aftershocks in the area.
Field hospitals have been set up in the quake-hit areas.
The earthquake and after-shakes magnitude varied from 4.5 to 6.1. The earthquake has also been felt in Turkey, Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
In Iran's western Sanandaj and Qasr-e Shirin cities, people evacuated their houses following the strong earthquake.
Esmail Najar, the head of Iran's National Disaster Management Organization said more injured people might be buried under the rubble in Qasr-e Shirin and Sarpol-e Zahab counties in Kermanshah province.
Witnesses in Sarpol-e Zahab said that they were appalled to see the city skyline on Monday morning, saying half of the buildings seem to have been destroyed, Tasnim news agency reported.
Three mourning days has been announced in Kermanshah province.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged all Iranian officials and institutions to "rush to the aid of those affected in these early hours" after the incident.
Khamenei said the country's entire range of capabilities had to be used swiftly to prevent a further rise in the death toll, according to Press TV.
He called on Iran's Armed Forces to help with removing the rubble and transferring the injured to medical centers.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a phone call with the interior ministry emphasized the need for maximum effort from officials.
On Monday, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli left for quake-hit province of Kermanshah in western Iran, accompanied by Minister of Health Hassan Qazizadeh Hashemi, Head of Iran's Red Crescent Society Ali Asqar Peivandi and a delegation from Presidential Office, official IRNA news agency said.
The delegation has been assigned to evaluate the process of emergency aid to quake-stricken people and present a report about the implemented measures on the scene.
Iran is one of the most seismically active countries in the world, being crossed by several major fault lines that cover at least 90 percent of the country. As a result, destructive earthquakes in Iran occur constantly.
The deadliest quake in Iran's modern history happened in June 1990. It destroyed the northern cities of Rudbar, Manjil, and Lushan, along with hundreds of villages, killing about 37,000 people.
An earthquake in the southeastern city of Bam in December 2003 killed 26,000 people.