Update: Over 407 killed, 860 injured in 7.2-magnitude earthquake along Iran-Iraq border.
Tehran: A 7.3 magnitude earthquake shook the mountainous Iran-Iraq border late Sunday killing at least 129 people, injuring hundreds more and triggering landslides that were hindering the rescue effort, officials said.
Footage posted on Twitter showed panicked people fleeing a building in Sulaimaniyah, northern Iraq, as windows shattered at the moment the quake struck, while images from the nearby town of Darbandikhan showed major walls and concrete structures had collapsed.
“At this stage, the earthquake in the west has killed 61 people and left 300 injured,” Iran’s official IRNA news agency said, adding that the toll was expected to rise.
Six others were reported dead on the Iraq side of the border. “We are in the process of setting up three emergency relief camps,” said Mojtaba Nikkerdar, the deputy governor of Iran’s Kermanshah province.
The quake hit 30 kilometres (19 miles) southwest of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan at around 9.20 pm, when many people would have been at home, the US Geological Survey said.
Iran’s emergency services chief Pir Hossein Koolivand said it was “difficult to send rescue teams to the villages because the roads have been cut off… there have been landslides.”
The worst-hit towns in Iran were Qasr-e Shirin in Kermanshah and Azgaleh, about 40 kilometres northwest, IRNA said.
It added that 30 Red Cross teams had been sent to the quake zone, parts of which had experienced power cuts.
In Iraq, officials said the quake had killed six people in Sulaimaniyah province and injured around 150.
In the Iraqi province of Sulaimaniyah, residents ran out onto the streets and some damage to property was reported, an AFP reporter there said.
“Four people were killed by the earthquake” in Darbandikhan, the town’s mayor Nasseh Moulla Hassan told AFP.
A child and an elderly person were killed in Kalar, according to the director of the hospital in the town about 70 kilometres south of Darbandikhan, and 105 people injured.
The quake, which struck at a relatively shallow depth of 25 kilometres, was felt for about 20 seconds in Baghdad, and for longer in other provinces of Iraq, AFP journalists said.
On the Iranian side of the border, the tremor shook several cities in the west of the country including Tabriz.
It was also felt in southeastern Turkey, “from Malatya to Van”, 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, a belt extending through western Iran and into northeastern Iraq.
The area sees frequent seismic activity. A catastrophic quake that struck Bam, in Iran, in 2003 killed at least 31,000 people and flattened the city.
Since then, Iran has experienced at least two major quake disasters, one in 2005 that killed more than 600 and another in 2012 that left some 300 dead.
More recently, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake near Iran’s border with Turkmenistan in May killed two people, injured hundreds and caused widespread damage.