Iran-Iraq earthquake: What happened and why

A 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the border region between Iraq and Iran on Sunday evening.

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This is what we know: 

1) What happened and where? 

  • At 9:18pm (18:18 GMT) local time in Iraq on Sunday, November 12, 2017, an earthquake struck near the border with Iran (18:18 GMT). The earthquake was 45km from Halabjah in the country’s east.

  • At 12:33am local time in Iran on Monday, a 4.5 magnitude tremor was felt near Sarpol-e Zahab. Until 3:20am, two more tremors of the same magnitude hit again in Sarpol-e Zahab. Then, at 7:27am, a stronger 4.9 magnitude tremor hit again.

  • At 7:36am and 8:04am on Monday, two tremors were felt in Iraq, Halabjah with a magnitude of 4.3 and 4.2 each.

  • About 50 aftershocks were felt across Iraq and Iran and as far as Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

2) How many died? 

  • The majority of victims were Iranian. IRNA, the country’s state news service, said on Monday that at least 328 people were killed and 3,950 were injured. 

  • Reports quoting Iraq’s interior minister said at least seven people were killed in Iraq’s northern province of Sulaimaniyah. There, at least 150 people were injured.
  • Although tremors were felt beyond Iraq and Iran, injuries have only been reported in the neighbouring countries.

4) Why did it happen? How often are there earthquakes?

  • Being situated near a fault line, earthquakes are frequent in the region.

  • The epicentre of the earthquake near Halabjah falls on the 1,500 kilometre-fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates. The fault line extends through western Iran and into northeastern Iraq.

  • In 2012, two earthquakes hit north-west Iran killing 200 people, with more than 2,000 injured, near the towns of Tabriz and Ahar. 

  • In 2005, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Iran’s Kerman province and killed more than 600 people. 
  • In 2003, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam in southeastern Iran, killing some 26,000 people, 1000 km (600 miles) southeast of Tehran. 

In Pictures

People receive treatment following an earthquake in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah, Iran [Reuters]
People react as they run following an earthquake in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah [ Reuters] 
A man walks past a collapsed building following an earthquake in Darbandikhan in Sulaimaniyah Governorate, Iraq [Ako Rasheed/Reuters]

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