At least 168 people have died and hundreds more injured after an earthquake shook the border region between Iraq and Iran on Sunday, according to authorities in both countries. Rescue services have said that they expect the death toll to rise.
A spokesman for Iran's National Disaster Management Organization put the number of injuries at more than 1650.
More than 60 of the victims were in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab, which is only 15 kilometers (10 miles) from the border.
Iran's emergency services chief Pir Hossein Koolivand said it was "difficult to send rescue teams to the villages because the roads have been cut off... there have been landslides."
Later, the Interior Ministry added that the "night has made it difficult for helicopters to fly to the affected areas" adding to the grave concern about remote villages in the area.
Tehran has sent 30 Red Cross teams to the quake zone, parts of which were without power. Three emergency relief camps were being set up by Iranian officials.
Quake felt in Turkey
Officials in Iraq's Sulaimaniyah province in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan said six people had died and 150 were injured. Four people reportedly died in the town of Darbandikhan and two in the town of Kalar, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Darbandikhan.
According to the US Geological Survey (USGS), the earthquake had a 7.3 magnitude and hit at 9:18 p.m. local time (1818 UTC) around 30 kilometers (19 miles) southwest of Halabjah. The quake was felt as far away as southeastern Turkey.
The area along the border of Iraq and Iran sees frequent seismic activity due to the faultline between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates. In 2003, some 31,000 people were killed by a catastrophic tremor that struck the Iranian city of Bam.
Also late on Sunday, a strong quake struck near Costa Rica, though there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The USGS also reported a 5.8 magnitude earthquake a few hours earlier near Japan, though that tremor was too far out into the Pacific Ocean to cause damage.
(This article was first published on DW. You can read the original article here.)