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Iran-Iraq quake death toll over 400

  • People walk next to a destroyed house after an earthquake at the city of Darbandikhan, northern Iraq, Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. A powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake near the Iraq-Iran border has killed over 350 people across both countries, sent residents fleeing their homes into the night and was felt as far away as the Mediterranean coast. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana) Felipe Dana



Associated Press
Monday, November 13, 2017

TEHRAN, Iran — Rescuers dug with their bare hands Monday through the debris of buildings brought down by a powerful earthquake that killed more than 400 people in the once-contested mountainous border region between Iraq and Iran, with nearly all of the victims in an area rebuilt since the end of the ruinous 1980s war.

Sunday night’s magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck about 19 miles outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the most recent measurements from the U.S. Geological Survey. It hit at 9:48 p.m. Iran time, just as people were going to bed.

The worst damage appeared to be in the Kurdish town of Sarpol-e-Zahab in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah, which sits in the Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and Iraq.

Residents fled into the streets as the quake struck, without time to grab their possessions, as apartment complexes collapsed into rubble. Outside walls of some complexes were sheared off by the quake, power and water lines were severed, and telephone service was disrupted.

Residents dug frantically through wrecked buildings for survivors as they wailed. Firefighters from Tehran joined other rescuers in the desperate search, using dogs to inspect the rubble.

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

The quake caused Dubai’s skyscrapers to sway and could be felt 660 miles away on the Mediterranean coast. Nearly 120 aftershocks followed.

Turkey dispatched emergency aid to northern Iraq as officials expressed “deep sadness” at the disaster.

Kerem Kinik, the Turkish Red Crescent’s vice president, said 33 aid trucks were en route to Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, carrying 3,000 tents and heaters, 10,000 beds and blankets, as well as food.

Relations between Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region and Turkey were strained following the Iraqi Kurds’ September independence referendum.

Pakistan also extended condolences.

Pope Francis offered prayers for the dead and urged rescue crews to stay strong.

Iran sits on many major fault lines and is prone to near-daily quakes. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people. The last major casualty earthquake in Iran struck in East Azerbaijan province in August 2012, killing more than 300.