Over 200 people are dead and thousands more injured after an enormous earthquake struck at the border region between Iran and Iraq on Sunday, a tremor that the US Geological Survey (USGS) has recorded at a whopping 7.3 magnitude.
The earthquake’s epicenter was located roughly twenty miles from Halabjah, a city in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq that has also been a hotbed for Islamic State-related activity, Al-Jazeera reported.
Striking at 9:18 pm, the quake was felt as far away as Qatar and inflicted massive casualties on both the Iraqi and Iranian side of the border. Iranian media have warned that the death toll is expected to rise as rescue workers endeavor to rescue victims who may have become trapped in the rubble.
While Iran is one of the most seismically active countries in the world, earthquakes are not as common in parts of Iraq, surprising many residents as far southwest as Baghdad.
“Baghdad is not prone to earthquakes so when people began to come outside, the shock was visible on the faces,” Al Jazeera correspondent Imran Khan told the outlet. “For the first few seconds I actually thought an explosion had taken place, but as it carried on – for up to a minute – I realized it was an earthquake.”
According to Iran’s National Medical Emergency Service, over 100 people were killed on that side of the border in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab alone, while other deaths in remote villages in both countries have been reported.
Iraqi officials have also expressed concern about the earthquake’s impact on the country’s infrastructure. The Darbandikhan dam in Sulaimaniyah, the Kurdish region’s second-largest city, was said to have sustained damage, but authorities assured residents that the situation was likely under control.