At least 407 people have died after the deadliest earthquake of 2017 struck the border region between Iraq and Iran late Sunday.
Iran’s state-run media Press TV reported the sharp rise in the death toll Monday adding that 6,650 people were injured in the quake, which was felt as far away as Turkey and Pakistan. Some 145 aftershocks were reported, according to state-run network IRINN.
Monday’s death toll has overtaken September’s Mexico City earthquake in which 369 people lost their lives.
Around 100 of the dead are believed to be from one town in Iran’s Kermanshah province, the country’s semi-official Mehr news agency reported.
Iran: 395 people confirmed dead, 6,650 injured, Iran’s Press TV has reported.
Northern Iraq: 7 people dead in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, Rekawt Hama Rasheed, the health minister of the Kurdish Regional Government said. Iraq’s health ministry added that 535 people were injured.
Rescue efforts: Authorities in Iran and Iraq have initiated rescue operations; Iran has declared three days of mourning.
The earthquake hit late Sunday night with the epicenter across the Iraq-Iran border.
The quake, which reached a depth of 23 km (just over 14 miles) according to the US Geological Survey, was felt across the region with aftershocks hitting Pakistan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Turkey, news agencies in those countries reported.
Iraq’s Meteorological Organization issued a warning on Iraqi State TV urging citizens to stay away from buildings and to refrain from using elevators.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi tweeted Monday that he “instructed civil defense teams and health and aid agencies to do all that they can to provide assistance” to those affected by the quake.
Meanwhile in Iran, the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei sent a message of condolence and urged military and civilian help to be dispatched to quake victims.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard were reportedly traveling to the affected areas to help with rescue efforts, according to Iran’s semi state-run Tasnim news agency.
Meanwhile hundreds of people were injured in the region, though most of these were minor, Rekawt Hama Rasheed, the health minister of the Kurdish Regional Government, said.
Majida Ameer, who lives in the south of Baghdad, said she ran to the streets with her three children after the quake hit late Sunday.
“I was sitting with my kids having dinner and suddenly the building was just dancing in the air,” Ameer told Reuters.
“I thought at first that it was a huge bomb. But then I heard everyone around me screaming: ‘Earthquake!'”
Pourya Badrkhani, a music teacher in Kermanshah, Iran, told CNN he was sitting at home watching television when the quake hit.
Badrkhani said he rushed out of his home along with his family and joined neighbors on the streets.
He said people were donating blood to help the injured while others have volunteered to go and help the border cities, which he says were the worst affected.
Iran sits on a major fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian plates and has experienced a number of earthquakes in the past.
The most deadly this century occurred in 2003 when a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck the city of Bam in the south east of the country, killing some 26,000 people.
Over a decade earlier in June 1990, an estimated 37,000 people were killed and the northern cities of Rudbar, Manjil, and Lushan were destroyed along with hundreds of villages.
In 2005 a 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked the city of Zarand in the southeastern province of Kerman, killing at least 400 people, and in 2012 a pair of earthquakes jolted northwest Iran, killing at least 300 people.