The death toll continued to climb early Monday after a powerful earthquake shook the Iran-Iraq border region.
Iranian state media placed the tally at 207 dead and 1,686 injured in the mountainous region of Iran alone.
Iraq’s government, meanwhile, did not immediately give word on casualties in that country, though Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued a directive for the country’s civil defense teams and “related institutions” to respond to the natural disaster.
On its website, the USGS placed the quake’s epicenter at about 18.6 miles southwest of the Iraqi city of Halabja.
The USGS also issued an “orange” alert for “shaking-related fatalities and economic losses.”
“Significant casualties and damage are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread,” the agency said online. “Past orange alerts have required a regional or national level response.
The quake struck at a depth of 14.4 miles, a shallow depth that can have broader damage.
Magnitude 7 earthquakes on their own are capable of widespread, heavy damage.
The quake was felt as far west as the Mediterranean coast. Its worst damage appeared to be in Iran’s western Kermanshah province, which sits in the Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and Iraq. Residents in the rural area rely mainly on farming to make a living.
Iranian social media and news agencies showed images and videos of people fleeing their homes into the night. Some 50 aftershocks followed.
Iran’s state-run television reported the increase in casualties early Monday and said rescue work was continuing overnight and would accelerate during the daytime.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered his condolences Monday morning and urged rescuers and all government agencies to do all they could to help those affected, state media reported.
The semi-official ILNA news agency said at least 14 provinces in Iran had been affected by the earthquake.
Officials announced that schools in Kermanshah and Ilam provinces would be closed Monday because of the temblor.
In Iraq, the quake destroyed old houses in Sadr City and triggered supermarket damage in the area. Traffic across Baghdad was slowed to a standstill.
The health department in Baquba, Iraq, said that it had received more than 30 fainting cases. In Khanaqin, the quake hurt five people and the minaret of one of the city’s biggest mosques toppled to the ground.
Iranian state TV also said Iraqi officials reported that at least six people dead inside Iraq, along with more than 50 people injured in Sulaymaniyah province and about 150 in the town of Khanaquin.
Iran sits on many major fault lines and is prone to near-daily quakes. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people.
The last major casualty earthquake in Iran struck in East Azerbaijan province in August 2012, killing over 300 people.
The Islamic Republic of Iran News Network quoted the head of the country’s emergency medical services, Pirhossein Koulivand, as saying that the earthquake knocked out electricity in Iran’s western cities of Mehran and Ilam. He also said 35 rescue teams were providing assistance. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a phone call with the Interior Ministry emphasized the need for maximum effort from officials.
Source: Fox News