Thousands of homeless Iranians had to spent the night in relief camps, two days after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck near Iraqi border in what is called as country’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade.
According to Iran's state-owned Press TV, 445 people have been killed, mostly in the western province of Kermanshah and 7,200 others have been injured.
The 7.3-magnitude quake rocked a border area 30 kilometers southwest of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan at around 9.20 pm on Sunday, the US Geological Survey said.
Many people would have been at home when the quake hit in Iran's western province of Kermanshah, where authorities said it killed at least 530 people and injured 7,200.
Across the border in more sparsely populated areas of Iraq, the health ministry said eight people had died and several hundred were injured.
Iraq's Red Crescent reported 9 dead and more than 400 injured.
Iranian authorities said rescue operations had been largely completed and the government declared Tuesday a national day of mourning.
As dusk approached on Monday, tens of thousands of Iranians were forced to sleep outside in the cold for a second night as authorities scrambled to provide them with aid.
Some had spent Sunday night outdoors after fleeing their homes in the mountainous cross-border region, huddling around fires at dawn as authorities sent in help.
"People's immediate needs are firstly tents, water and food," said the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari.
"Newly constructed buildings held up well, but the old houses built with earth were totally destroyed," he told state television during a visit to the affected region.
Hundreds of ambulances and dozens of army helicopters reportedly joined the rescue effort after Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the government and armed forces to mobilize "all their means".
Like other foreign media organisations, AFP had not received authorization to visit the scene of the disaster on Monday.
Officials said they were setting up relief camps for the displaced.
Iran's emergency services chief Pir Hossein Koolivand said landslides had cut off roads to affected villages, impeding the access of rescue workers.
But by late afternoon, officials said all the roads in Kermanshah province had been re-opened, although the worst-affected town of Sar-e Pol-e Zahab remained without electricity, said state television.
Officials said 22,000 tents, 52,000 blankets and tonnes of food and water had been distributed.
The official IRNA news agency said 30 Red Crescent teams had been sent to the quake zone.
After initially pinning the quake's epicenter inside Iraq, the USGS then placed it across the border in Iran on Monday morning.
Iran's Sar-e Pol-e Zahab, home to some 85,000 people close to the border, was the worst hit, with at least 280 dead.
At dawn, buildings in the town stood disfigured, their former facades now rubble on crumpled vehicles.
In an open space away from wrecked housing blocks, men and women, some wrapped in blankets, huddled around a campfire.
The tremor also shook several western Iranian cities including Tabriz.Some 2,59,000 people live in the region, according to the most recent census.
In Iraq, the health ministry said the quake had killed seven people in the northern province of Sulaimaniyah and one in Diyala province to its south.
More than 500 people were injured in both provinces and the nearby province of Kirkuk.
The quake, which struck at a relatively shallow depth of 23 kilometres, was felt for about 20 seconds in Baghdad, and for longer in other provinces of Iraq, AFP journalists said.
Iraqi health authorities said they treated dozens of people in the aftermath, mostly for shock.
It was also felt in southeastern Turkey, an AFP correspondent said. In the town of Diyarbakir, residents were reported to have fled their homes.
The quake struck along a 1,500-kilometre fault line between the Arabian and
Eurasian tectonic plates, which extends through western Iran and northeastern Iraq.
With inputs from AFP
Published Date: Nov 14, 2017 08:35 AM | Updated Date: Nov 14, 2017 19:57 PM