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Iran-Iraq earthquake: What happened and why

A 7.3 magnitude earthquake has struck the border region between Iraq and Iran.

Iraq and Iran

A 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the border region between Iraq and Iran on Sunday evening.

This is what we know: 

What happened and where? 

  • Over 50 tremors struck Iraq and Iran. The shocks were felt as far as  Kuwait , Qatar, Turkey, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Earthquake hit near Halabjah. At 9pm (18:18 GMT) local time in Iraq on Sunday, November 12, 2017, an earthquake struck near the border with Iran. The earthquake was 45km from Halabjah in the country's east.
  • Seven earthquakes hit on Monday. At 12am local time in Iran on Monday, a 4.5 magnitude tremor was felt near Sarpol-e Zahab. Until 3am, one more tremor of the same magnitude hit again in Sarpol-e Zahab. Then, at 7am, a stronger 4.9 magnitude tremor hit again.
  • At 7am and 8am on Monday, two tremors were felt in Halabjah with a magnitude of 4.3 and 4.2 each.
  • At 11am a tremor of magnitude 4.4 hit again in Kermanshan province in Iran.
  • At 12pm a tremor of magnitude 4.8 hit in Khanaquin, Iraq. 

Death toll 

  • The majority of victims were Iranian. IRNA, the country's state news service, said on Monday that at least 407 people were killed and 6,700 were injured. 
  • At least seven people killed in Iraq. Reports quoting Iraq's interior minister said at least seven people were killed in Iraq's northern province of Sulaimaniyah, and at least a further 300 people were injured there.
  • No injuries in neighbouring countries. Although tremors were felt beyond Iraq and Iran, no injuries have been reported in the neighbouring countries.

Why did it happen? How often are there earthquakes?

  • Being situated near a fault line, earthquakes are frequent in the region.
  • The epicentre of the earthquake near Halabjah falls on the 1,500 kilometre-fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates. The fault line extends through western Iran and into northeastern Iraq.
  • In 2012, two earthquakes hit north-west Iran killing 200 people, with more than 2,000 injured, near the towns of Tabriz and Ahar. 
  • In 2005, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Iran's Kerman province and killed more than 600 people. 
  • In 2003, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam in southeastern Iran, killing some 26,000 people, 1000 km (600 miles) southeast of Tehran. 

Is it safe now? How extensive is the damage?

  • Risk of more tremors. Small and big magnitude earthquakes have continued to hit around the area. As of latest, at 4.4 magnitude earthquake hit Khanaquin in Iraq at 12:19 on Monday.
  • Emergency declared in Iraq. Officials in Sulaymaniyah declared an emergency on Monday to assess the aftermath, according to local Kurdish media.
  • Residents were told to sleep outside their homes as precautionary measure. Iraq's meteorology centre also advised people to stay away from buildings and elevators, in case of aftershocks. 
  • The most extensive damage was in the town of Darbandikhan, southern Sulamaniyah.  
  • More than 70,000 shelters needed. The Iranian Red Crescent said more than 70,000 people needed emergency shelter. It is "difficult to send rescue teams to the villages because the roads have been cut off ... there have been landslides," said Iran's emergency services chief, Pir Hossein Koolivand.
  • IRNA said 30 Red Cross teams had been sent to the quake zone. 
  • Several cities have been cut off from electricity, schools in Kermanshah and Ilam provinces closed, and three days of mourning have been announced.
  • Oil pipelines and refineries in the area remained intact, an Iranian official said. 

Reactions

  • President Rouhani said: "I wholeheartedly sympathise with all the injured and the victims of this disaster, and ask the Almighty [for] mercy for those who lost their lives, swift recovery for the injured and patience and health for those fellow Iranians who lost their beloved one."
  • Turkey was the first country to offer aid through its Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency. It announced 92 rescue personnel were on standby, with 4,000 tents and 7,000 blankets.
  • EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc was ready to cooperate with Iran in providing emergency relief aid. 
  • Pakistan also expressed its condolences. 


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