Rescuers hunt for survivors after hundreds killed in Iran-Iraq border earthquake

Rescuers hunt for survivors after hundreds killed in Iran-Iraq border earthquake

Rescuers are digging through the debris of buildings in the search for survivors after an earthquake in the border region of Iran and Iraq killed more than 430 people.

The magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck on Sunday night Iran time, just as people were going to bed.

The IRNA news agency said on Tuesday morning that the number of injured has risen to 7,156.

More than half of the casualties are from the Kurdish-majority town of Sarpol-e-Zahab, in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah, which sits in the Zagros Mountains that divide the two countries.

The town suffered severe damage including to its only hospital and the army has set up field hospitals.

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

The quake was centred 19 miles (31km) outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, the US Geological Survey said.

It could be felt on the Mediterranean coast, some 660 miles (1,000km) away

Iran's government declared Tuesday as a national mourning day.

President Hassan Rouhani, who was visiting the area of Tuesday, promised to rebuild the devastated area in the "shortest" timespan possible and said his administration plans to support reconstruction with both handouts and loans.

Italy is sending 12 tons of tents, blankets, mobile kitchens and other assistance to victims.

The Foreign Ministry said an Italian plane loaded with the aid would be leaving the UN's regional emergency warehouse base in Brindisi, bound for Sulaimaniyah, Iraq.

Separately, the ministry said it was working on a financial aid package for Iran to be funnelled through the Red Crescent, which is working on the ground.

Iran sits on many major fault lines and is prone to near-daily quakes.

In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people.

In 2012, a major casualty earthquake killed more than 300.

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