More than 300 people are dead after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the northern border region between Iran and Iraq yesterday. The quake killed hundreds of people in Iran and at least six people in Iraq, leading the BBC to describe it as the world’s deadliest earthquake this year.
The 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck 32 kilometers, or around 20 miles, south of Halabjah, Iraq, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), at 21:18 local time. Iranian media said at least 14 provinces in the country were impacted, but Kermanshah was hit the hardest. Thousands of people were injured – the BBC gave the number as over 7,000. The town of Sarpol-e-Zahab had the most victims – and it was hard for people to receive medical care as the town’s main hospital was severely damaged.
Many homes in the mountainous area were built with mud bricks, according to the BBC, putting them at risk of collapse during a strong earthquake such as this one. Rescuers worked to find survivors beneath collapsed buildings, and some teams were hindered by mudslides.
Baghdad residents felt the earthquake; local Majida Ameer told Reuters, “I was sitting with my kids having dinner and suddenly the building was just dancing in the air. I thought at first that it was a huge bomb. But then I heard everyone around me screaming: ‘Earthquake!'”
Reuters quoted the head of Iranian Red Crescent as saying over 70,000 people needed shelter following the quake. Many people left their homes to go outside in cold weather in fear of aftershocks – and so far there have been around 153, according to the Iranian seismological center, with more expected.
According to Reuters, Iran rests across major fault lines, and is prone to tremors. This one hit at a depth of 23.2 kilometers, around 14.4 miles, and was reportedly felt in Kuwait, Israel, and Turkey. The BBC said it’s the deadliest quake Iran has experienced since 2012. It’s the sixth earthquake with a magnitude of seven or more this year – as opposed to 16 in 2016 and 19 in 2015.