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Strong earthquake hits Iraq-Iran border, killing hundreds

Baghdad/Ankara: At least 332 people have been killed in Iran and Iraq after a powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit the region, as rescuers step up efforts to find dozens trapped under rubble.

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Earthquake hits during TV interview

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In the middle of a televised interview, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit the Kurdish region near the border with Iran on Sunday night.

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Earthquake hits during TV interview

In the middle of a televised interview, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit the Kurdish region near the border with Iran on Sunday night.

State television said more than 328 people were killed in Iran and at least 2,500 were injured. Local officials said the death toll would rise as search and rescue teams reached remote areas of Iran.

"There are still people under the rubble. We hope the number of dead and injured won't rise too much, but it will rise," Mojtaba Nikkerdar said

A rescue worker searches debris for survivors with his sniffing dog.
A rescue worker searches debris for survivors with his sniffing dog. Photo: Pouria Pakizeh/ Iranian Students News Agency

The earthquake was felt in several western provinces of Iran but the hardest hit province was Kermanshah, which announced three days of mourning. More than 236 of the victims were in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah province, about 15 kilometres from the Iraq border.

Electricity was cut off in several Iranian and Iraqi cities, and fears of aftershocks sent thousands of people in both countries out onto the streets and parks in cold weather.

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Iranian state television said the quake had caused heavy damage in some villages where houses were made of earthen bricks. Rescuers were labouring to find survivors trapped under collapsed buildings.

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The quake also triggered landslides that hindered rescue efforts, officials told state television. At least 14 provinces in Iran had been affected, Iranian media reported.

A car lays smashed by debris from the earthquake at the city of Sarpol-e-Zahab in western Iran.
A car lays smashed by debris from the earthquake at the city of Sarpol-e-Zahab in western Iran. Photo: Pouria Pakizeh/ Iranian Students News Agency

"The night has made it difficult for helicopters to fly to the affected areas and some roads are also cut off… we are worried about remote villages," Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said in an interview on state television.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered his condolences on Monday, urging all government agencies to do all they could to help those affected

People look at destroyed buildings after an earthquake at the city of Sarpol-e-Zahab in western Iran.
People look at destroyed buildings after an earthquake at the city of Sarpol-e-Zahab in western Iran. Photo: Pouria Pakizeh/ Iranian Students News Agency

Meanwhile, a strong magnitude 6.5 quake struck the Pacific coast of Costa Rica near its capital city San Jose on Sunday night, but there were no initial reports of injuries or damage to infrastructure.

There was no Pacific-wide tsunami threat, the US National Weather Service said.

People stand in the street after feeling aftershocks in Baghdad, Iraq.
People stand in the street after feeling aftershocks in Baghdad, Iraq. Photo: AP

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis said authorities were gathering information and asked residents to remain calm and to be prepared for any possible aftershocks.

A witness said the quake was felt very briefly in San Jose, but it was enough to startle residents.

"We're very scared. It's been years since we felt such a strong one," said Otto Vargas, a university professor in San Jose.

The quake hit in a rural area near the touristic city of Jaco, where there are few tall buildings.

Costa Rica's National Emergency Commission said it is monitoring the situation.

Neighbouring El Salvador's civil protection agency tweeted that the quake caused some electrical posts to fall, while the civil protection agency in neighbouring Panama said there were no reports of damage there.

The quake, initially measured as much as magnitude 6.8, was centered 69 kilometers south-west of San Jose at a depth of 20 kilometers, the US Geological Survey said.

Reuters​

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