Hun­dreds dead af­ter earth­quake on bor­der with Iran, Iraq.

7.3 mag­ni­tude tem­blor felt 660 miles away


TEHRAN | Res­cuers dug with their bare hands Mon­day through the de­bris of build­ings brought down by a pow­er­ful earth­quake that killed more than 400 peo­ple in the once-con­tested moun­tain­ous bor­der re­gion be­tween Iraq and Iran, with nearly all of the vic­tims in an area re­built since the end of the ru­inous 1980s war.

Sun­day night’s mag­ni­tude 7.3 earth­quake struck about 19 miles out­side the eastern Iraqi Kur­dish city of Hal­abja, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent mea­sure­ments from the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey. It hit at 9:48 p.m. Iran time, just as peo­ple were go­ing to bed.

The worst dam­age ap­peared to be in the Kur­dish town of Sar­pol-e-Za­hab in the western Ira­nian prov­ince of Ker­man­shah, which sits in the Za­gros Moun­tains that di­vide Iran and Iraq.

Res­i­dents fled into the streets as the quake struck, with­out time to grab their pos­ses­sions, as apart­ment com­plexes col­lapsed into rub­ble. Out­side walls of some com­plexes were sheared off by the quake, power and wa­ter lines were sev­ered, and tele­phone ser­vice was dis­rupted.

The hos­pi­tal in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab was heav­ily dam­aged, and the army set up field hos­pi­tals, although many of the in­jured were moved to other cities, in­clud­ing Tehran. The quake also dam­aged an army gar­ri­son and build­ings in the bor­der city and killed an un­spec­i­fied num­ber of sol­diers, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei im­me­di­ately dis­patched all gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary forces to aid those af­fected.

Many of the heav­ily dam­aged com­plexes in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab were part of con­struc­tion projects un­der for­mer hard-line Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad. The newly home­less slept out­side in cold, hud­dled around makeshift fires for warmth, wrapped in blan­kets — as were the dead.

The quake killed at least 407 peo­ple in Iran and in­jured 7,156 oth­ers, Iran’s cri­sis man­age­ment head­quar­ters spokesman Behnam Saeedi told state TV. Most of the in­juries were mi­nor, he said, with fewer than 1,000 still hos­pi­tal­ized.

In Iraq, the earth­quake killed at least seven peo­ple and in­jured 535 oth­ers, all in the coun­try’s north­ern, semi­au­tonomous Kur­dish re­gion, ac­cord­ing to its In­te­rior Min­istry.

The earth­quake struck 14.4 miles below the sur­face, a shal­low depth that can pro­duce broader dam­age. Mag­ni­tude 7 earth­quakes on their own are ca­pa­ble of wide­spread, heavy dam­age.

The quake caused Dubai’s sky­scrapers to sway and could be felt 660 miles away on the Mediter­ranean coast. Nearly 120 af­ter­shocks fol­lowed.

Kokab Fard, a 49-year-old house­wife in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab, said she could only flee empty-handed when her apart­ment com­plex col­lapsed.

“Im­me­di­ately af­ter I man­aged to get out, the build­ing col­lapsed,” Ms. Fard said. “I have no ac­cess to my be­long­ings.”

Ay­a­tol­lah Khamenei of­fered his con­do­lences as Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani’s of­fice said he would tour the dam­aged ar­eas Tues­day, al­ready de­clared a na­tional day of mourn­ing. Au­thor­i­ties also set up re­lief camps and hun­dreds lined up to do­nate blood in Tehran, though some on state TV com­plained about the slow­ness of aid com­ing.

Sar­pol-e-Za­hab fell to the Iraqi troops of dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Hus­sein dur­ing his 1980 in­va­sion of Iran, which sparked the eight-year war be­tween the two coun­tries that killed 1 mil­lion peo­ple. Though clawed back by Iran seven months later, the area re­mained a war zone that suf­fered through Sad­dam’s mis­sile at­tacks and chem­i­cal weapons.

Af­ter the war, Iran be­gan re­build­ing the town. It also was part of Mr. Ah­madine­jad’s low-in­come hous­ing project, which aided the hard-liner’s pop­ulist cre­den­tials but also led to cheap con­struc­tion stan­dards.

Earth­quakes have proven in the past to be po­lit­i­cal events as well, either harm­ing the na­tional gov­ern­ment if the re­sponse is seen as in­ad­e­quate, or open­ing the way for pre­vi­ously hos­tile neigh­bors to forge new links.

Turkey dis­patched emer­gency aid to north­ern Iraq as of­fi­cials ex­pressed “deep sad­ness” at the dis­as­ter. Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim said his coun­try acted im­me­di­ately to pro­vide med­i­cal and food aid to north­ern Iraq.

Re­la­tions be­tween Iraq’s semi-au­ton­o­mous Kur­dish re­gion and Turkey were strained fol­low­ing the Iraqi Kurds’ Septem­ber in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

Pak­istan also ex­tended con­do­lences for the loss of life and in­juries suf­fered by “our Ira­nian and Iraqi brethren.”


Peo­ple sit on the rub­ble of a de­stroyed home af­ter an earth­quake in the city of Dar­bandikhan, Iraq, on Mon­day. Au­thor­i­ties re­ported that a pow­er­ful 7.3 mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck the Iraq-Iran bor­der and killed more than 400 peo­ple in both coun­tries.

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