Powerful earthquake kills 445 Iranians, more casualties feared

Updated 2017-11-14 09:06:57 Xinhua
Rescuers search for survivors in front of damaged buildings in Sarpol-e Zahab, Iran, Nov. 13, 2017. (Xinhua/Ahmad Halabisaz)

Rescuers search for survivors in front of damaged buildings in Sarpol-e Zahab, Iran, Nov. 13, 2017. (Xinhua/Ahmad Halabisaz)

The quake death toll of Iranians rose to 445 one day after a powerful earthquake hit the Iran-Iraq border area as more are still buried in ruins, local media reported on Monday.

At least 445 people have been killed and 7,156 others injured in the quake measuring 7.3 magnitude, the reports 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 (USGS).

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.

At least 14 provinces in Iran had been affected by the earthquake, including the capital Tehran. The worst-hit areas in Iran were Qasr-e Shirin and Sarpol-e Zahab counties in Kermanshah province, some 20 km from the border.

Some 30 Red Cross teams from across the country have been sent to the quake zones, parts of which had experienced severe damage.

Over 20 Iranian villages in Iran's Kermanshah province have been damaged and power supply and water flows are 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.

The rescue teams from across Iran are still digging out those who are stuck under the rubbles in the villages and towns 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. Officials announced that schools in Kermanshah and Ilam provinces would be closed Monday because of the tremor.

In a telephone conversation with President Hassan Rouhani on Monday, Governor of Kermanshah province Hooshang Bazvand expressed concerns that the death toll would still rise, according to Tasnim news agency.

At least 43 ambulances, four ambulance buses, and 130 emergency technicians have been stationed in the Mehrabad Airport in Tehran for a quick transfer of the victims to hospitals.

Over 100 medics have also been dispatched to the affected areas. The Iranian Air Force, too, has deployed helicopters to accelerate the transfer of the wounded.

Iranians have been flocking to the branches of the Blood Transfusion Organization to donate blood.

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.

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