by News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
More than 4,000 are injured as magnitude 7.3 earthquake hits bordering nations
A car smashed by debris from the earthquake at the city of
Sarpol-e-Zahab in western Iran, MondayPhoto: AP
At least 300 people were killed in Iran and Iraq on Sunday when a powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit the region, state media in the two countries said, as rescuers searched for dozens trapped under rubble.
Behnam Saeedi, a spokesman for Iran's National Disaster Management Organization, said that more than 4,000 were injured, he said.
Officials expected the casualty toll to rise when search and rescue teams reached remote areas of Iran.
Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz offered his sympathy to the countries. "My condolences to the people of Iran and Iraq over the loss of human life caused by the earthquake," he said.
The earthquake was felt in several provinces of Iran but the hardest hit province was Kermanshah, which announced three days of mourning.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake measured magnitude 7.3. An Iraqi meteorology official put its magnitude at 6.5 with the epicenter in Penjwin in Sulaimaniyah province in the Kurdistan region close to the main border crossing with Iran.
The tremor was felt in Turkey and Israel as well, causing no known damage.
Kurdish health officials said at least four people were killed in Iraq and at least 50 injured.
The quake was felt as far south as Baghdad, where many residents rushed from their houses and tall buildings when tremors shook the Iraqi capital.
"I was sitting with my kids having dinner and suddenly the building was just dancing in the air," said Majida Ameer, who ran out of her building in the capital's Salihiya district with her three children. "I thought at first that it was a huge bomb. But then I heard everyone around me screaming: 'Earthquake!'"
Similar scenes unfolded in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, and across other cities in northern Iraq, close to the quake's epicenter.
Electricity was cut off in several Iranian and Iraqi cities, and fears of aftershocks sent thousands of people in both countries out onto the streets and parks in cold weather.
The Iranian seismological center registered around 50 aftershocks and said more were expected.
The head of Iranian Red Crescent said more than 70,000 people were in need of emergency shelter.
Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said some roads were blocked and were worried about casualties in remote villages. The Iranian armed forces have been deployed to help the emergency services.
An Iranian oil official said pipelines and refineries in the area remained intact.
Iran sits astride major fault lines and is prone to frequent tremors. A magnitude 6.6 quake on Dec. 26,  devastated the historic city of Bam, 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) southeast of Tehran, killing about 31,000 people.
On the Iraqi side, the most extensive damage was in the town of Darbandikhan, 55 kilometers (34 miles) southeast of the city of Sulaimaniyah in the semiautonomous Kurdistan Region.
More than 30 people were injured in the town, according to Kurdish Health Minister Rekawt Hama Rasheed.
"The situation there is very critical," Rasheed said.
The district's main hospital was severely damaged and had no power, Rasheed said, so the injured were taken to Sulaimaniyah for treatment. Homes and buildings had extensive structural damage, he said.
In Halabja, local officials said a 12-year-old boy died of an electric shock from a falling electric cable.
Iraq's meteorology center advised people to stay away from buildings and not to use elevators, in case of aftershocks.
News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
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