More than 500 people have died after a 7.3 quake struck an area of northern Iran close to the border with Iraq, with thousands more injured, local and state media have reported.
The epicenter of the quake, which struck at around 9:20 p.m. local time (1:30 p.m. ET) Sunday, was in the Iranian town of Ezgeleh, according to Iran’s Crisis Management Organization and the US Geological Survey.
Most of the damage appears to center on the Iranian Kermanshah province, perched between Zagros Mountains, dividing Iran and Iraq.
Shortly after noon Tuesday local time, as many as 530 people had been killed, according Iran's state news organization.
Mojtaba Nikkerdar, deputy governor of Kermanshah province, told state TV: "There are still people under the rubble. We hope the number of dead and injured won’t rise too much, but it will rise.”
The Iranian Red Crescent reported that 70,000 people were in need of emergency shelter.
However, Iran's emergency services chief Pir Hossein Koolivand told AFP that landslides were preventing rescuers from reaching some of the more remote areas.
The death toll jumped sharply Monday morning, with the Legal Medical Organization of Kermanshah initially confirming to Press TV that they had accepted 207 bodies to the morgue – a figure that was soon surpassed by national officials.
Pictures and videos on social media showed crumbled buildings, with workers and locals digging through the night to try and get people out of the wreckage.
One of the worst hit spots was the town of Sarpol-e Zahab, in Kermanshah province, the New York Times reported.
“My friend was screaming, saying, ‘I lost my home,’” a woman who lives in the town posted on Twitter. “Thank God, she and her family are doing well. She said people were only mourning and their loved ones were under the rubble.”
The head of the Iran's emergency services also told Reuters that the Kermanshah province's hospital had been damaged in the quake and couldn't treat the hundreds in need of care.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has been briefed on the situation, and has sent the health and interior ministers to the province to personally oversee the rescue efforts. Three days of mourning have been announced in the area, which Rouhani will visit Tuesday.
Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has urged all Iranian citizens to help with the relief effort, ordering the military forces from the army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and the Basij (voluntary) Force to help, local media reported.
Across the border, in Iraq, the damage appeared to be slightly less severe. Brigadier General Saad Maan of Iraq's Interior Ministry said that seven people had died in the quake. He told the Associated Press that 321 people, all in the northern Kurdish-controlled territory, were injured.
But the quake was still felt as far south as Baghdad. Majida Ameer, who lives in the city with her children, told Reuters she saw buildings "dancing in the air."
"I thought at first that it was a huge bomb," she said. "But then I heard everyone around me screaming: ‘Earthquake!'"
Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the country had taken immediate steps to provide food and medical aid to affected areas in northern Iraq. The Turkish Red Crescent said Monday just under 100 volunteers were bringing 33 trucks of humanitarian aid materials and 10 disaster vehicles.
Kerem Kinik, head of the Turkish Red Crescent, told the AP that this aid would include 3,000 tents and heaters and 10,000 beds and blankets as well as food.
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