The death toll is currently at 407 and counting following a 7.3 magnitude earthquake that struck Iran near the Iraqi border on Sunday.  There have been 13 deaths reported in Iraq and Kurdish territory as well.

Rescuers continue to dig through the rubble in the Western provinces of Iran, particularly in Kermanshah, where the earthquake is said to have caused the most damage.  As the death toll continues to mount, more than 6,600 additional Iranians have been reported to be injured.

Sarpol-e Zahab county within the Kermanshah province appears to have gotten the worst of it, with more than 300 of the 407 deaths reported thus far coming from the community some ten miles from the Iraqi border.  Heavy damage was caused to houses and buildings that Iranian state television reports are built primarily out of earthen bricks.  As rescuers scramble to dig survivors out of the rubble, many of those who are not trapped or injured are still faced with the loss of their homes and businesses.

Some positive news has emerged from Sarpol-e Zahab, however, as Iranian media reports say one woman and her baby were recently pulled out of the rubble alive and unharmed.  The region, which is home to some 85,000 people, is said to have suffered significant infrastructure damage, with many buildings completely collapsing during and since the quake.

Local media outlets have also reported a number of landslides that have occurred following the earthquake, increasing the risk to survivors and rescuers alike and hampering continued rescue efforts.  Iranian state controlled television has already begun a campaign calling on Iranian citizens to donate blood to help treat the massive number of casualties being pulled from the rubble.

The earthquake killed six in Iraq, with seven more being reported from Kurdish controlled territory in the nation’s north.  More than 325 have been reported wounded by Kurdish officials as well.  The Darbandikhan district of Iraq, near the border with Iran, was said to be the hardest hit in the nation with at least ten houses collapsed and serious damage done to the region’s only hospital.

“The situation there is very critical,” Kurdish Health Minister Rekawt Hama Rasheed told Reuters.

The earthquake, which was reported as a 7.3 by the U.S. Geological survey but a 6.5 by Iraqi officials, effected communities as far away as Baghdad where residents fled from their homes amid the rumble.

“I was sitting with my kids having dinner and suddenly the building was just dancing in the air,” said Majida Ameer in Baghdad.  “I thought at first that it was a huge bomb. But then I heard everyone around me screaming: ‘Earthquake!'”

Water and electricity has been cut off in many Iranian, Iraqi and Kurdish communities, and the fear of aftershocks and tremors have sent many residents out into the street amid cold weather, as most would rather brave the elements than risk having their homes collapse on top of them.

“My two children were sleeping when the house started to collapse because of the quake. I took them and ran to the street. We spent hours in the street until aid workers moved us into a school building,” Gharibian told Reuters by telephone.

Blocked roads have hampered rescue efforts, but specialized teams using search dogs and heat sensing technology continue to scour the region for survivors.  Iran has activated military units, including the elite Revolutionary Guard and members of the Basij militia to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts already underway.

“The main problem is sheltering people at this cold weather. We need more tents,” Qasr-e Shririn governor Faramarz Akbari told the media on Monday morning.


Image courtesy of the Associated Press