At least 61 people were killed and over 200 injured in Iran, and at least four people were killed and 50 injured in Iraq, when a strong earthquake struck in Iraq, near the border with Iran.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake measured a magnitude of 7.3, while an Iraqi meteorology official put its magnitude at 6.5 with the epicenter in Penjwin in Sulaimaniyah province, in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region close to the main border crossing with Iran.
Iranian state TV said at least eight border villages were damaged. Electricity had been cut in the area and rescue teams had been dispatched.
On the Iraqi side, the most extensive damage was in the town of Darbandikhan, 47 miles east of the city of Sulaimaniyah. More than 30 people were injured in the town, according to the Kurdish Health Minister Rekawt Hama Rasheed.
“The situation there is very critical,” Rasheed told Reuters.
The district’s main hospital was severely damaged and had no power, Rasheed said, so the injured were being taken to Sulaimaniyah for treatment. There was extensive structural damage to buildings and homes.
There were reports of injuries in a stretch of cities, towns and rural villages near the Iranian border, including Halabja, Khanaqin and Panjwin.
Residents were keeping away from their homes and sleeping on the streets, several hours after the quake hit.
In Halabja, local officials said that a 12-year-old boy died from an electric shock when an electric cable fell during the earthquake.
Iraq’s interior minister ordered civil defense and firefighting crews to be on high alert after the quake.
In Iran, the earthquake was felt in the capital Tehran. Media gave contradictory casualty figures. An Iranian official said at least 61 people were killed and more than 300 injured.
Semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted an emergency services official as saying there were fears that casualties in villages and small towns could be high.
People were staying out on the streets in towns in the western Kermanshah province because of the threat from aftershocks, a local Red Crescent official told TV.
Many residents in the Iraqi capital Baghdad rushed out of houses and tall buildings in panic.
“I was sitting with my kids having dinner and suddenly the building was just dancing in the air,” said Majida Ameer, who ran out of her building in the capital’s Salihiya district with her three children. “I thought at first that it was a huge bomb. But then I heard everyone around me screaming ‘Earthquake!'”
There were similar scenes in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, and across other cities in northern Iraq, close to the quake’s epicenter.
Iraq’s meteorology center advised people to stay away from buildings and not to use elevators, in case of aftershocks.
Residents of Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir also reported feeling a strong tremor, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties in the city.
Turkish Red Crescent Chairman Kerem Kinik told broadcaster NTV that Red Crescent teams in Erbil were preparing to go to the site of the earthquake, and that Turkey’s national disaster management agency AFAD and National Medical Rescue Teams (UMKE) were also preparing to head into Iraq. AFAD’s chairman said the organization was waiting for a reply to its offer for help.
In a tweet, Kinik said the Turkish Red Crescent was gathering 3,000 tents and heaters, 10,000 beds and blankets and moving them towards the Iraqi border.
“We are coordinating with Iranian and Iraqi Red Crescent groups. We are also getting prepared to make deliveries from our northern Iraq Erbil depot,” he said.
Israeli media said the quake was felt in many parts of Israel too.
Updated Sunday, November 12, 2017 at 6:03 pm