At least 207 people have died and more than 1,700 were injured in Iran after an earthquake shook the border region between Iraq and Iran on Sunday, according to authorities in both countries. In neighboring Iraq seven people have died and 321 were injured.
Rescue services have said that they expect the death toll to rise.
The hardest-hit region was western Iran’s Kermanshah province, which lies in the Zagros mountains dividing Iraq and Iran. Reuters reports more than 142 of the victims were in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab, 15 kilometers (10 miles) from the Iraqi border.
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.”
Later, the Interior Ministry added that the “night has made it difficult for helicopters to fly to the affected areas” adding to the grave concern about remote villages in the area.
Tehran has sent 30 Red Crescent teams to the quake zone, parts of which were without power. Three emergency relief camps were being set up by Iranian officials.
Quake felt in Turkey
The Iraqi ministry of health said seven people had died and 321 taken to hospital in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Four people reportedly died in the town of Darbandikhan and two — including a child and an elderly person — died in the town of Kalar, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Darbandikhan.
In nearby Halabja, residents fled their homes and many slept outside out of fear of the earthquake and potential aftershocks, local teacher Warzer Ali told DW reporter Chase Winter via social media.
“Many people slept out in the street, others left the town and slept in fields,” Ali said, adding there were nearly a dozen aftershocks.
According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the earthquake had a 7.3 magnitude and hit at 9:18 p.m. local time (1818 UTC) around 30 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Halabjah. The quake was felt as far away as southeastern Turkey.
The area along the border of Iraq and Iran sees frequent seismic activity due to the 1,500 kilometer faultline between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates. In 2003, some 31,000 people were killed by a catastrophic tremor that struck the Iranian city of Bam.
Also late on Sunday, a strong quake struck near Costa Rica, though there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The USGS also reported a 5.8 magnitude earthquake a few hours earlier near Japan, though that tremor was too far out into the Pacific Ocean to cause damage.