A devastating earthquake near the Iran-Iraq border has left at least 164 people dead and more than 1,600 injured, the Iranian Interior Ministry says.
The ministry on November 13 said most of the casualties were in the Kermanshah Province, with residents reporting feeling the 7.3 magnitude temblor throughout the region, from Turkey to Kuwait.
The U.S. Geological Survey said it was centered 19 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of the city of Halabja in northeastern Iraq at a depth of 33.9 kilometers (21 miles).
Tehran University’s seismological center said the temblor hit at 9:48 p.m. local time (1818 GMT) on November 12.Iran's official IRNA news agency quoted officials as warning that the casualty toll was expected to rise as emergency workers began work at first light on November 13.
It was not immediately clear if the casualty numbers reported by Iranian sources included figures from the Iraqi side of the border as well. News agencies reported several dead and dozens injured in Iraq, mostly in Kurdistan, although no official figures have been released.
Officials said the Iranian border town of Ghasre Shirin was heavily damaged, with rescue workers reporting that their efforts were being made difficult because of power outages.The regional governor's office said helicopters and sniffer dogs were in place but could only start operations at first light on November 13.
Mojtaba Nikkerdar, the provincial deputy governor in Iran's western Kermanshah Province, told state television there were deaths in at least 30 separate villages, but he said it would take hours before exact casualty numbers could be determined.
"There are still people under the rubble. We hope the number of dead and injured won't rise too much, but it will rise," Nikkerdar said. Reports said most of the Iranian dead were in Kermanshah Province. The town of Sarpol-e Zahab, about 15 kilometers from the Iraq border, was one of the hardest hit, with dozens of people killed, the reports said.
The semiofficial Iranian ILNA news agency reported that at least 14 provinces had been affected by the earthquake. "The quake was felt in several Iranian provinces bordering Iraq...Eight villages were damaged...Electricity has been cut in some villages and rescue teams have been dispatched to those areas," state TV reported.
IRNA said water and electricity had been cut in some parts of Kermanshah Province. News agency reported that Iranian President Hassan Rohani called on the Interior Ministry to make a maximum effort to aid victims.
Iraqi news agencies showed photos of crumbled buildings in around the city of Sulaimaniya in Kurdistan, saying at least 50 people had been injured in Darbandikhan town. The quake was also felt in the Iranian capital of Tehran and in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Residents of southwest Turkey, Israel, and Kuwait also said they had felt the temblor.
Iran is on many major fault lines and is often hit by damaging earthquakes. In 2003, a 6.6-magnitude quake destroyed the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, CNN, dpa, IRNA, Iraqi News, The New York Times, and ILNA