A local resident inspects a collapsed building in the town of Darbandikhan, Sulaimaniyah province, northern Iraq, on Nov. 13, 2017. (Xinhua/Ahmad Halabisaz)
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday sent condolences to his Iranian and Iraqi counterparts over a massive earthquake near the Iran-Iraq border area on Sunday, and pledged steadfast supports to the two nations at this hard time.
A devastating 7.3-magnitude earthquake jolted near the Iran-Iraq border area on Sunday, causing the deaths of at least 445 people while injuring more than 7,000 others, with more still buried in ruins.
In messages of condolences sent respectively to Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani and Iraqi president, Fuad Masum, Xi said that he was shocked at the strong earthquake that caused heavy causalities and property losses in the two countries.
On behalf of the Chinese government and people, as well as in his own name, Xi extended his deep condolences to the victims in the powerful earthquake, and offered sincere sympathies to those injured and families of the victims in the messages.
The Chinese president also expressed his belief that the Iranian and Iraqi people, under the leadership of their presidents as well as their governments, will overcome the disaster and rebuild their homeland.
The Chinese people stand firmly with the Iranian people during this difficult time, Xi pledged.
The epicenter of the quake was located approximately 32 km south of the city of Halabja in a remote mountainous region of eastern Iraq, some 200 km northeast of Baghdad and 400 km west of Tehran, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
It jolted the area at 9:18 p.m. local time (0018 GMT) in Iran when many people would have been at home.
At least 14 provinces in Iran were affected by the tremor, including the capital city of Tehran. The worst-hit areas were Qasr-e Shirin and Sarpol-e Zahab counties in Kermanshah province, some 20 km from the border.
About 30 Red Cross teams from across the country have been dispatched to the quake zone, parts of which sustained severe damage.
In Iran's Kermanshah province, over 20 Iranian villages have been wrecked with power supply and water flows disrupted.
The earthquake and after-shakes with the magnitude varying from 4.5 to 6.1 were felt in Turkey, Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
As one of the most seismically active countries in the world, Iran is crossed by several major fault lines that cover at least 90 percent of the country.
On the side of Iraq, the quake has led to the deaths of six people in Sulaimaniyah province and the injuries of more than 150 others.
The tremor was felt in many Iraqi provinces in the north and central regions, including the capital city of Baghdad, witnesses said.
Most casualties occurred in the town of Darbandikhan, some 35 km southeast of the city of Sulaimaniyah.
The earthquake has been the deadliest so far this year, eclipsing the one that hit Mexico City in September, and was felt in as far away as Turkey and Pakistan.