A magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit the region around the border between Iran and Iraq on Sunday, killing at least 145 people state media in the two countries said, as rescuers searched for dozens trapped under rubble.
At least 141 people were killed in Iran, Behnam Saeedi, a spokesman for Iran’s National Disaster Management Organization, said on the state television. More than 850 were injured, he said.
The earthquake was felt in several provinces of Iran but the hardest hit province was Kermanshah, which announced three days of mourning.
More than 97 of the victims were in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab in Kermanshah, about 15 km (10 miles) from the Iraq border. The main hospital of the town was severely damaged and struggling to treat hundreds of injured people, state television reported.
Kurdish health officials also said at least four people were killed in Iraq and there were 50 injured.
The US Geological Survey said the quake measured magnitude 7.3, while an Iraqi meteorology official put its magnitude at 6.5 with the epicentre in Penjwin in Sulaimaniyah province in the Kurdistan region close to the main border crossing with Iran.
The electricity was cut off in several Iranian and Iraqi cities, and fears of aftershocks sent thousands of people in both countries out onto the streets and parks in cold weather.
“The night has made it difficult for helicopters to fly to the affected areas and some roads are also cut off… we are worried about remote villages,” Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said in an interview on state television.
Many houses in rural parts of the province are made of mud bricks and are known to crumble easily in quake-prone Iran.
A quake registering a magnitude between 7 and 7.9 can inflict widespread, heavy damage.
Local people said in media reports and on Twitter they had felt several aftershocks. Television said schools were closed in Kermanshah and Ilam provinces on Monday.
On the Iraqi side, the most extensive damage was in the town of Darbandikhan, 75 km (47 miles) east of the city of Sulaimaniyah in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.
More than 30 people were injured in the town, according to 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.
In Halabja, local officials said a 12-year-old boy died from an electric shock when an electric cable fell during the earthquake.
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 epicentre.
Iraq’s meteorology centre 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 organisation 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.
Several UAE residents took to social media late Sunday night saying that they have felt some tremors corresponding to an earthquake.
According to multiple users on Twitter, they felt the ground trembling for a brief period and are asking if others have also experienced it. Users from several parts of the country say that the tremors were felt not only in Dubai, but also in the Reem Island district of Abu Dhabi.
“I was having dinner when I felt the ground shake a bit,” a Dubai resident told KT. “My wife felt it too. We rushed down as soon as we felt the tremors,” he added.
“We felt a minor quake,” added a resident of Reem Island, Abu Dhabi.
‘I felt a minor earthquake in my building in Deira,’ a KT reader said. Another resident also said that the tremors were felt in Discovery Gardens.
Sharjah residents also felt the tremors. KT reader Ashraq said that he felt the earthquake in the Al Nahda area; reader Samreena also chimed in and confirmed that she felt the tremors in the emirate.
The tremors can be attributed to a magnitude 7.6 earthquake was recorded along the Iran and Iraq border. The National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) posted an alert of the quake.
Iranian state TV says a 7.2-magnitude earthquake has jolted the region near the border between Iran and Iraq.
The U.S. Geological Survey confirmed the quake on its website, placing its epicenter at around 32km (19 miles) outside the Iraqi city of Halabja, and issuing an “orange” alert for “shaking-related fatalities and economic losses.” There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Iranian provinces in the northwestern, western and central areas of the country were impacted.
Iranian social media was abuzz with area people evacuating their homes.