A 7.3-magnitude natural disaster on the Iran-Iraq border leaves hundreds dead

A 7.3-magnitude natural disaster on the Iran-Iraq border leaves hundreds dead

A 7.3-magnitude natural disaster on the Iran-Iraq border leaves hundreds dead

Thousands of homeless Iranians sought shelter from bitter cold Tuesday as President Hassan Rouhani promised swift help after a major quake that killed more than 400 people.

Rescue operations have ended in Iran after a powerful quake killed more than 500 people and injured 8,000 others.

The quake also shook the Iranian provinces of Kordestan, Ilam, Khuzestan, Markazi, West Azarbaijan, East Azarbaijan, Lorestan, Qazvin, Zanjan, Qom and Tehran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has visited the quake-stricken area and promised the government "will use all its power to resolve the problems in the shortest time".

The head of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said many older buildings collapsed.

More than 500 villages in the region suffered damage.

Iran has so far declined offers of foreign assistance to deal with the aftermath of the tremor, which officials said damaged 30,000 homes and completely destroyed two villages.

The most extensive damage in Iraq occurred in the town of Darbandikhan in the country's Kurdish region. Iraq's Red Crescent put the toll at nine dead.

Three days of mourning have been ordered for those in Kermanshah.

Iranian athletes are closing ranks to help the natural disaster victims in the western Kermanshah Province.

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She said now that rescue operations had ended, the priority was getting people into shelters as quickly as possible, and that the delivery of aid was on track.

Health Minister Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi was cited Tuesday by the Tasnim news agency as recognising that aid "distribution was not assured properly" and needed to be improved.

State television aired footage of weeping villagers carrying away bodies wrapped in bloodied blankets and bed sheets and scrabbling with their bare hands through rubble in search of friends and relatives.

Iran struggled to shelter all those affected on Monday night as thousands were forced to sleep in the open air without electricity or water supplies.

Rouhani said in Sarpol-e-Zahab that the government would look into what went wrong at the Mehr homes, some of which his administration handed over.

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

The Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicraft Department dispatched several cultural heritage task forces to determine the extent of [possible] damage to each monument, the official said, adding that the five sites can be restored.

Kermanshah's provincial officials said about 12,000 houses both in urban and rural regions across the province have been totally damaged due to the strong quake.

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

The area sees frequent seismic activity.

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