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SHAKE AND BLOW
Iran hunts for survivors as quake kills 400 near Iraq border
By Siavosh Ghazi with Shwan Mohammed in Darbandikhan, Iraq
Tehran (AFP) Nov 13, 2017


Iran quake survivors spend second night in the open air
Tehran (AFP) Nov 14 - Tens of thousands of Iranians spent a second night in the open air after a 7.3-magnitude quake struck near the border with Iraq, killing more than 400.

People who had fled their homes when the quake rocked the mountainous region spanning Iran's western province of Kermanshah and Iraqi Kurdistan on Sunday evening, braved chilly temperatures as authorities struggled to get aid into the quake zone.

Iran has declared Tuesday a national day of mourning as officials outlined the most pressing priorities and described the levels of destruction in some parts as "total".

"People's immediate needs are firstly tents, water and food," said the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari.

"Newly constructed buildings... held up well, but the old houses built with earth were totally destroyed," he told state television during a visit to the affected region.

The toll in Iran stood at 413 dead and 6,700 injured, while across the border in more sparsely populated areas of Iraq, the health ministry said eight people had died and several hundred were injured. Iraq's Red Crescent put the toll at nine dead.

AFP, like other foreign media organisations, has not been allowed to visit the scene of the disaster.

Officials said they were setting up relief camps for the displaced and that 22,000 tents, 52,000 blankets and tonnes of food and water had been distributed. The official IRNA news agency said 30 Red Crescent teams had been sent to the area.

Hundreds of ambulances and dozens of army helicopters were reported to have joined the rescue effort after Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the government and armed forces to mobilise "all their means".

By late Monday, officials said all the roads in Kermanshah province had been re-opened, although the worst-affected town of Sar-e Pol-e Zahab remained without electricity, said state television.

At least 280 people were killed in the town, home to some 85,000 people. Buildings stood disfigured, their former facades now rubble on crumpled vehicles.

- Totally destroyed -

The tremor shook several western Iranian cities including Tabriz and was also felt in southeastern Turkey, an AFP correspondent said. In the town of Diyarbakir, residents were reported to have fled their homes.

Several villages were totally destroyed in Iran's Dalahoo County, the Tasnim news agency reported. Five historical monuments in Kermanshah suffered minor damage, but the UNESCO-listed Behistun inscription from the seventh century BC was not affected, the ISNA agency said.

Nizar Abdullah spent Sunday night with neighbours sifting through the ruins of a two-storey home next door after it crumbled into concrete debris.

"There were eight people inside," the 34-year-old Iraqi Kurd said.

Some family members managed to escape, but "neighbours and rescue workers pulled out the mother and one of the children dead from the rubble".

The quake, which struck at a relatively shallow depth of 23 kilometres, was felt for about 20 seconds in Baghdad, and for longer in other provinces of Iraq, AFP journalists said.

It struck along a 1,500-kilometre fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates, which extends through western Iran and northeastern Iraq.

The area sees frequent seismic activity.

In 1990, a 7.4-magnitude quake in northern Iran killed 40,000 people, injured 300,000 and left half a million homeless, reducing dozens of towns and nearly 2,000 villages to rubble.

Thirteen years later, a catastrophic quake flattened swathes of the ancient southeastern Iranian city of Bam, killing at least 31,000.

Iran has experienced at least two major quake disasters since, one in 2005 that killed more than 600 and another in 2012 that left some 300 dead.

Teams of Iranian rescuers dug through rubble in a hunt for survivors Monday after a major earthquake struck the Iran-Iraq border, killing at least 421 people and injuring thousands.

The 7.3-magnitude quake rocked a border area 30 kilometres (20 miles) southwest of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan at around 9:20 pm (1820 GMT) on Sunday, the US Geological Survey said.

Many people would have been at home when the quake hit in Iran's western province of Kermanshah, where authorities said it killed at least 413 people and injured 6,700.

Across the border in more sparsely populated areas of Iraq, the health ministry said eight people had died and several hundred were injured.

Iraq's Red Crescent reported nine dead and more than 400 injured.

Iranian authorities said rescue operations had been largely completed and the government declared Tuesday a national day of mourning.

As dusk approached on Monday, tens of thousands of Iranians were forced to sleep outside in the cold for a second night as authorities scrambled to provide them with aid.

Some had spent Sunday night outdoors after fleeing their homes in the mountainous cross-border region, huddling around fires at dawn as authorities sent in help.

"People's immediate needs are firstly tents, water and food," said the head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari.

"Newly constructed buildings... held up well, but the old houses built with earth were totally destroyed," he told state television during a visit to the affected region.

Hundreds of ambulances and dozens of army helicopters reportedly joined the rescue effort after Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the government and armed forces to mobilise "all their means".

Like other foreign media organisations, AFP had not received authorisation to visit the scene of the disaster on Monday.

- Relief camps -

Officials said they were setting up relief camps for the displaced.

Iran's emergency services chief Pir Hossein Koolivand said landslides had cut off roads to affected villages, impeding the access of rescue workers.

But by late afternoon, officials said all the roads in Kermanshah province had been re-opened, although the worst-affected town of Sar-e Pol-e Zahab remained without electricity, said state television.

Officials said 22,000 tents, 52,000 blankets and tonnes of food and water had been distributed.

The official IRNA news agency said 30 Red Crescent teams had been sent to the quake zone.

- Collapsed walls -

After initially pinning the quake's epicentre inside Iraq, the USGS then placed it across the border in Iran on Monday morning.

Iran's Sar-e Pol-e Zahab, home to some 85,000 people close to the border, was the worst hit, with at least 280 dead.

At dawn, buildings in the town stood disfigured, their former facades now rubble on crumpled vehicles.

In an open space away from wrecked housing blocks, men and women, some wrapped in blankets, huddled around a campfire.

The tremor also shook several western Iranian cities including Tabriz.

Some 259,000 people live in the region, according to the most recent census.

State television showed tents, blankets and food being distributed in areas struck by the temblor.

In neighbouring Dalahoo County, several villages were totally destroyed, an official told Tasnim agency.

A Kermanshah official told ISNA agency that five historical monuments in the province suffered minor damage, but the UNESCO-listed Behistun inscription from the seventh century BC was not affected.

- Windows shattered -

In Iraq, the health ministry said the quake had killed seven people in the northern province of Sulaimaniyah and one in Diyala province to its south.

More than 500 people were injured in both provinces and the nearby province of Kirkuk.

Footage posted on Twitter showed panicked people fleeing a building in Sulaimaniyah as windows shattered at the moment the quake struck. Images from the nearby town of Darbandikhan showed walls and concrete structures that had collapsed.

Nizar Abdullah spent the night with neighbours sifting through the ruins of a two-storey home next door after it crumbled into concrete debris.

"There were eight people inside," the 34-year-old Iraqi Kurd said.

Some family members managed to escape, but "neighbours and rescue workers pulled out the mother and one of the children dead from the rubble".

- Residents flee homes in Turkey -

The quake, which struck at a relatively shallow depth of 23 kilometres, was felt for about 20 seconds in Baghdad, and for longer in other provinces of Iraq, AFP journalists said.

Iraqi health authorities said they treated dozens of people in the aftermath, mostly for shock.

It was also felt in southeastern Turkey, an AFP correspondent said. In the town of Diyarbakir, residents were reported to have fled their homes.

The quake struck along a 1,500-kilometre fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates, which extends through western Iran and northeastern Iraq.

The area sees frequent seismic activity.

In 1990, a 7.4-magnitude quake in northern Iran killed 40,000 people, injured 300,000 and left half a million homeless, reducing dozens of towns and nearly 2,000 villages to rubble in just seconds.

Thirteen years later, a catastrophic quake flattened swathes of the ancient southeastern Iranian city of Bam, killing at least 31,000.

Iran has experienced at least two major quake disasters since, one in 2005 that killed more than 600 and another in 2012 that left some 300 dead.

Quake leaves trail of death and destruction in Iraq
Darbandikhan, Iraq (AFP) Nov 13, 2017 - Nizar Abdullah spent the night sifting through the ruins of the two-storey house next door in the mountainous town of Darbandikhan in Iraqi Kurdistan after a killer quake hit the region.

"There were eight people inside," Abdullah, an Iraqi Kurd, told AFP on Monday, outside the pile of concrete debris where the house once stood.

Some family members managed to escape, but "neighbours and rescue workers pulled out the mother and one of the children dead from the rubble", said the 34-year-old.

The 7.3-magnitude quake hit on the Iraq-Iran border area on Sunday night, killing hundreds of people and injuring thousands of others.

Iran took the brunt of it, with at least 336 people killed and 3,950 injured, while in Iraq the quake claimed eight lives and injured 535 others, officials from both countries said.

The quake hit a border area 30 kilometres (20 miles) southwest of Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan at around 9:20 pm (1820 GMT), the US Geological Survey said.

Most people were at home when the quake struck.

"All at once the electricity went out and I felt a strong tremor," said Loqman Hussein.

"I immediately ran out of the house with my family," he added.

Akram Wali, 50, said many families in Darbandikhan sought shelter with relatives outside of the town.

They fled as authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan called on the population in the southern area of the town to leave their homes, fearing that the Darbandikhan dam would burst.

- All eyes on dam -

The dam, which spans the Diyala River, is located in Sulaimaniyah province, where seven people were killed, including four in Darbandikhan. One person died in Diyala province.

Authorities in the Darbandikhan region, home to 40,000 people, say the dam has withstood the fury of the quake and did not suffer any major cracks.

Taha Mohammed, 65, has not heeded the call to leave Darbandikhan, even if the quake totally destroyed his house.

"We ran out and no one was injured," said the man dressed in the traditional baggy pants of Iraqi Kurds, counting his blessings despite the tragedy.

Iraqi health ministry spokesman Seif al-Nadr said that the quake injured 321 people in Iraqi Kurdistan, 170 others in Diyala province and 44 in the disputed northern province of Kirkuk.

Most of them were treated for shock, he said in a statement.

"The Iraqi government must help the victims," said Yassin Qassem, whose house was badly damaged by the quake.

"We are Kurds but also Iraqis," he added.

Tensions have run high between the autonomous Kurdish region and the federal government in Baghdad since the Kurds held an independence referendum in September in defiance of Baghdad.

Sunday's quake was also felt in southeastern Turkey.

Ankara has sent humanitarian assistance to Iraq, including tents and blankets, as well as a medical team, a Turkish government spokesman said.

SHAKE AND BLOW
Strong quake rocks Costa Rica
San Josť, Costa Rica (AFP) Nov 13, 2017
A strong earthquake, measuring 6.5 according to a US seismological agency, rocked Costa Rica late Sunday, but there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties. The quake occurred at 8:28 pm local (0228 GMT) on the Central American country's Pacific coast, at a depth of 20 kilometers (12 miles), close to the popular tourist beach town of Jaco. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did ... read more

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