Devastating tremors in Iran and Iraq: the death toll is growing rapidly

Devastating tremors in Iran and Iraq: the death toll is growing rapidly

Iranians living outdoors in bitterly cold temperatures after an quake are making desperate pleas for help.

The death toll in the devastating 7.3-magnitude natural disaster that struck Iran in a region bordering Iraq has reached 540, with thousands of Iranians struggling to cope without basic necessities and making desperate pleas for help. Numerous villages affected by quake were very remote and hard to reach, said Bagheri.

Night-time temperatures in Kermanshah province fell close to freezing point for a second night in succession.

The Turkish Red Crescent has sent assistance including 33 aid trucks, 3,000 tents and heaters, 10,000 beds and blankets and food to Sulaymaniyah, and the military has dispatched a cargo plane of aid.

ILNA reported that heating equipment distributed by state officials in Sarpol-e Zahab was insufficient and the severe cold could endanger the lives of children and the elderly. "They are holding on to their parents to warm themselves - it's pretty bad".

Gulani said there were an average of three strong aftershocks an hour, triggering panic.

The quake, centred in Penjwin in Iraq's Sulaimaniyah province in the Kurdistan region, killed at least six people in Iraq and injured more than 68. It was one of the strongest on earth this year as well as the deadliest.

One of the region's worst quakes struck Bam in Iran in 2003 and killed at least 31,000 people.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif thanked foreign countries offering to help but wrote on Twitter: "For now, we are able to manage with our own resources".

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One aid agency said 70,000 people needed shelter and the United Nations said it was "ready to assist if required".

Tuesday was declated a national day of mourning in Iran as officials described the levels of destruction in some parts as "total".

Rescuers used backhoes and other heavy equipment to dig through toppled buildings in Sarpol-e-Zahab, home to more than half of the dead. "Our engineers?" He said the government would hold accountable anyone found not to have upheld building standards.

Aside from the 530 people killed in Iran, 7,817 were injured, the state-run IRNA news agency reported. Iraqi officials said seven people were killed and 325 injured in Iraq, all in the northern Kurdish provinces.

Mansoureh Bagheri, an Iran-based official with the Red Crescent Society, told the BBC about 12,000 residential buildings had "totally collapsed".

The rescue and relief operations to help people affected by a massive quake is nearing completion, Tasnim quoted head of the country's Emergency Medical Service as saying.

As of Monday, over 100 medics have been sent to devastated areas of Iran.

Iran's sporting community has always been beside the people during natural calamities such as the 2003 Bam quake in Bam City, Kerman Province, in which more than 26,000 were killed and over 30,000 were injured.

Tremors were felt also in the Iraqi provinces of Erbil, Halabja and Dohuk, where Kurds live predominantly.

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