People were reeling Monday after a powerful earthquake that struck the Iraq-Iran border region killed more than 400 people and injured thousands. The death toll is expected to rise.
Terrified residents fled their homes and ran into the night when the magnitude-7.3 quake struck Sunday. The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter was 19 miles outside the Iraqi city of Halabja. The earthquake struck at 9:48 p.m. Iran time, just as people were going to bed. More than 100 aftershocks were counted.
The quake hit 14.4 miles below the surface, a shallow depth that caused greater damage. Iran’s semi-official ILNA news agency said at least 14 provinces in the nation were affected.
The shock caused Dubai’s skyscrapers to sway and could be felt 660 miles away on the Mediterranean coast, the Associated Press reported.
The death toll climbed to 407 people in Iran and 7,156 others injured, Iran’s crisis management headquarters spokesman Behnam Saeedi told state TV. Most of the injuries were minor, he said, with fewer than 1,000 still hospitalized.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported 445 dead and 7,370 injured. There was no immediate explanation of the discrepancy, although double-counting of victims is common during such disasters in Iran.
Iraq’s Interior Ministry said the earthquake killed at least seven people and injured 535 in the nation's semiautonomous Kurdish region.
Iranian social media was abuzz with posts of people evacuating their homes, especially from the cities of Ghasr-e Shirin and Kermanshah. The earthquake could be felt across Iraq, from Irbil to Baghdad, where people ran into the streets.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, offered his condolences Monday and dispatched all government and military forces to aid those affected.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued a directive for the country’s civil defense teams to respond to the disaster.
The worst damage appeared to be in the Iranian town of Sarpol-e-Zahab in Kermanshah province, in the Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and Iraq.
Reza Mohammadi, 51, said he and his family ran into an alley following the first temblor.
“I tried to get back to pick some stuff but it totally collapsed in the second wave,” he said.
Amina Mohammed, from the Iraqi town of Darbandikhan, said she and her sons fled their home as it collapsed.
“I think it was only God that saved us. I screamed to God and it must have been him to stop the stairs from entirely collapsing on us,” she said.
The quake damaged the dam at Darbandikhan, which holds back the Diyala River.
Iran is prone to near daily quakes as it sits on many major fault lines. In 2003, a magnitude-6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people.
Iraqi seismologist Abdul-Karim Abdullah Taqi, who runs the earthquake monitoring group at the state-run Meteorological Department, said the main reason for the fewer casualties in Iraq was the angle and the direction of the fault line in the quake, as well as the nature of the Iraqi geological formations that could better absorb the shocks.
Contributing: The Associated Press