At least 416 people have been killed by an earthquake that struck the border region of Iran and Iraq last night.
The US Geological Survey says the magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck 19 miles southwest of the Iraqi town of Halabja at about 9.20pm local time. Tremors were felt as far away as Turkey, Israel and Kuwait.
Iran's state-run media Press TV confirmed that 407 people had been killed in Iran, while a Red Crescent spokesman told the BBC that a further nine had been killed in Iraq, though this number was expected to rise.
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“Landslides have made it harder for rescuers to reach those affected in rural areas, and there are fears a dam in Iraq could burst after it was damaged by the earthquake,” the BBC website adds. “People living nearby have reportedly been asked to leave.”
Kurdish news agency Rudaw confirmed that the World Health Organization (WHO) had sent an emergency response team to the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah,to help the wounded and assess the damage.
The final death toll is expected to be far higher, says the BBC. More than 1.8 million people live within 100km (62 miles) of the quake's epicentre, according to UN estimates. “The earthquake struck 23.2 kilometers (14.4 miles) below the surface, a shallow depth that can amplify damage,” adds Time magazine. “Magnitude 7 earthquakes can be highly destructive.”
“Iran sits on many major fault lines and is prone to near-daily quakes,” reports The Times of Israel. “In 2003, a magnitude-6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people.”
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