By Nimra Noor, International News Writer
On November 12, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 shook the border region between Iran and Iraq and is now the world’s deadliest earthquake in 2017. The quake killed at least 450 people and injured more than 7,000 in Iran and neighboring Iraq, according to Al Jazeera.
Most of the reported casualties were in Kermanshah, Iran’s western province near the epicenter of the earthquake. Search efforts in the region are in progress, with rescue workers digging through rubble in an attempt to find any missing people. However, there were fears that the death toll would rise further as some roads to more remote villages were not yet accessible on Monday. “The death tolls do not include casualties in remote villages in mountainous areas yet, where access is difficult and electricity and phones have been cut off,” said Bahram Waladbeigi, a Kurdish activist who had been in contact with quake-hit areas.
BBC reported that the earthquake damaged the main hospital in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab that is being used to treat the thousands of wounded victims. In addition, the Iranian Red Cross said that approximately 70,000 people in total will need some sort of shelter as a result of the earthquake’s damage. Unfortunately, the damage was widespread given most of the homes in the Kurdish mountains are made from mud bricks and are not best suited to withstand an earthquake.
On the Iraqi side, the most extensive damage was in the town of Darbandikhan in the Kurdistan Region. A dam in the area, built on the Diyala River in the northern Iraq, was also damaged. Local officials said it did not pose a threat but the town’s mayor told Kurdish media that residents should stay clear of the dam’s path.
With more than 100 aftershocks after the earthquake, reported by BBC, the seism triggered multiple major landslides as a result of the shaking, making rescue efforts more difficult in the mountainous region. Consequently, many people were forced to sleep outside or in incomplete buildings as nighttime temperatures dropped below freezing. Nonetheless, Iran’s armed forces and elite Revolutionary Guards have been dispatched to the region to lead the rescue mission, and the country has declared three days of mourning, according to CNN. In Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued a directive for the country’s civil defense teams and “related institutions” to respond to the natural disaster. Meanwhile, neighboring countries and the international community have offered their condolences and support in the wake of the disaster. In response to the international community’s sympathy and offers to help, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif issued a statement on Monday, saying, “We are grateful for global expressions of sympathy and offers of assistance. For now, we can manage with our own resources. Many thanks for all offers and we will keep you posted.”
Even surpassing the one that hit Mexico City on September 19, the tremor was felt as far away as Turkey and Pakistan. Seismologists reported that it resulted from the pressure built up between the colliding Arabian and Eurasian plates of the Earth’s crust, and unfortunately, earthquakes will continue to occur in this region as long as the two plates continue to push up against each other. Hopefully, preparation is underway to learn from this catastrophic event and to uncover more about seismic activity in the region.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 21st print edition.
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