At least 36 killed as strong quake rocks Iran-Iraq border

Sulaimaniyah (Iraq) (AFP) –


A 7.3 magnitude earthquake shook the mountainous Iran-Iraq border late Sunday killing at least 36 people and injuring hundreds more, triggering landslides that were hindering the rescue effort, officials said.

The quake hit 30 kilometres (19 miles) southwest of Halabja, near the northeastern border with Iran, the US Geological Survey said.

"We have 30 deaths in different cities," Mojtaba Nikkerdar, the deputy governor of Iran's Kermanshah province said, suggesting that the toll could rise.

"We are in the process of setting up three emergency relief camps," Nikkerdar 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."

In the province of Sulaimaniyah, in Iraq's Kurdistan region, residents ran out onto the streets and some minor property damage was reported, an AFP reporter said.

Iranian state television spoke of 200 injured. The worst-hit towns there were Qasr-e Shirin in Kermanshah and Azgaleh, about 40 kilometres northwest.

The IRNA news agency said 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.

"Four people were killed by the earthquake" in Darbandikhan, the town's mayor Nasseh Moulla Hassan told AFP.

A child and old 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 9:18 pm (1818 GMT) 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.

In Iran, IRNA said the earthquake was felt in several cities in the west of the country including Tabriz.

The quake was also felt in southeastern Turkey, "from Malatya to Van", an AFP correspondent said. In the town of Diyarbakir, residents fled their homes.

The quake took place 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 US Geological Survey said.

A 5.7 magnitude earthquake near Iran's border with Turkmenistan in May killed two people, injured hundreds and caused widespread damage, state media reported.

An earthquake that struck Bam, in Iran, in 2003 killed at least 31,000 people and flattened the city.