Rescuers hunt through debris after hundreds die in Iran-Iraq border earthquake

World News | Published:

A 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck on Sunday night.

Rescuers using diggers and other heavy equipment were searching through the debris of buildings toppled by a powerful earthquake on the border between Iran and Iraq, with weeping women crying out to God as aid workers found new victims.

The grim work began again at dawn in the Kurdish town of Sarpol-e-Zahab in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah, which appears to have been the hardest hit by the magnitude 7.3 earthquake which struck on Sunday night.

The hospital in Sarpol-e-Zahab was heavily damaged, and the army set up field hospitals, although many of the injured were moved to other cities, including Tehran.

The quake also damaged an army garrison and buildings in the border city and killed an unspecified number of soldiers, according to reports.

Graphic locates epicentre of 7.3-magnitude earthquake on the border of Iran and Iraq
(PA Graphics)

President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Kermanshah province on Tuesday to see the damage for himself and offer his support to those affected.

“This was a pain for all Iranians,” he said, according to a statement on the presidency’s website. “Representing the nation of Iran, I offer my condolences to the people of Kermanshah, and tell them that all of us are behind Kermanshah.”


Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, expressed his thanks to foreign countries offering to help but wrote on Twitter: “For now, we are able to manage with our own resources.”

Relatives weep following the devastating earthquake
(Farzad Menati/AP)

Cleric Abdolhossein Moezi, a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who also is touring the area, said there was a need for more relief material and “security”.

Many of the heavily damaged complexes in Sarpol-e-Zahab were part of construction projects under former hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The newly homeless slept outside in cold, huddled around makeshift fires for warmth.


The quake killed 430 people in Iran and injured 7,460 others, state media reported on Tuesday. Most of the injuries were minor, with fewer than 1,000 still in hospital, Iran’s crisis management headquarters spokesman Behnam Saeedi told state TV.

Boys walk on the roof of a destroyed house after an earthquake in the city of Darbandikhan, northern Iraq
(Felipe Dana/AP)

The official death toll came from provincial forensic authorities based on death certificates issued. Some reports said unauthorised burials without certification could mean the death toll was actually higher.

The quake was centred about 19 miles (31km) outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the US Geological Survey, and struck 14.4 miles (23.2km) below the surface, a somewhat shallow depth that can cause broader damage. The quake caused Dubai’s skyscrapers to sway and could be felt 660 miles (1,060km) away on the Mediterranean coast.

Seven deaths occurred in Iraq and 535 people were injured, all in the country’s northern, semi-autonomous Kurdish region, according to its Interior Ministry.

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