Death toll climbs to 348 in Iran - Iraq / Costa Rica reports 3 deaths

Rescuers battle to find survivors trapped under collapsed buildings after the 7.3 magnitude quake

A powerful magnitude-7.3 earthquake has rocked the northern border region between Iran and Iraq, killing more than 348 people in Iran and seven in Iraq and injuring thousands more.

Iran’s state-run Irna news agency raised the death toll to 341 on Monday and said 5,953 people were injured after the quake that struck the country’s western provinces at 9.20pm local time on Sunday. Local officials said the tolls would rise as search and rescue teams reached remote areas.

More than 70,000 people were in need of emergency shelter, the Iranian Red Crescent said.

The hardest hit province was Kermanshah, where three days of mourning have been announced. More than 236 people died in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab, about 10 miles from the Iraq border.

Farhad Tajari, the local MP, said 15 members of his family had been killed and that the town’s main hospital was severely damaged and struggling to treat hundreds of injured people.

“Sarpol-e Zahab has only one hospital, which was demolished in this incident. All patients and hospital staff have been buried beneath the rubble, so it cannot offer any service,” he told local media.

The quake killed at least seven people in Iraq and injured 535, all in the country’s northern, semi-autonomous Kurdish region, the interior ministry said.

The magnitude-7.3 quake was centred 19 miles outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the most recent measurements from the US Geological Survey. It struck at a depth of 14.4 miles (23.2km), a shallow depth that can have broader damage. Magnitude-7 earthquakes on their own are capable of widespread, heavy damage.

Rescuers worked through the night to find people trapped in collapsed buildings in towns affected by the quake, which was felt as far west as Israel and south to Baghdad.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, offered his condolences and urged government agencies to do all they could to help those affected. Iranian police, the elite Revolutionary Guards and its affiliated Basij militia forces were dispatched to affected areas overnight, state TV reported.

The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, has asked his government to focus on the aid supply. A large number of Iranian internet users criticised Facebook for not activating its safety check feature.

Qasr-e-Shirin, another city in Kermanshah that serves as a gateway for the transfer of goods between Iranand Iraq, was also badly hit. At least 28 people are reported to have been killed there, Isna said.

“There are still people under the rubble. We hope the number of dead and injured won’t rise too much, but it will rise,” Kermanshah’s deputy governor, Mojtaba Nikkerdar, said.

Electricity was cut off in several Iranian and Iraqi cities, and fears of aftershocks sent thousands of people in both countries out on to the streets and parks in cold weather.

Iran’s interior minister, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, said some roads were blocked and there was concern about casualties in remote villages.

Pictures posted on social media from cities across Kermanshah showed collapsed buildings, apartment buildings losing their facades and cars smashed beneath rubble. People were busy recovering bodies as rescue dogs tried to find signs of life.

Costa Rica hit by magnitude 6.5 earthquake

An 6.5 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Costa Rica on Sunday night, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

The quake was centered 16 km west of Jacó, Costa Rica, at a depth of 10 km, according to the USGS. It gave the quake preliminary magnitude of 6.8, but later downgraded it.
The observatory at the Universidad Nacional Costa Rica said the earthquake measured 6.9.
Jacó lies southwest of Costa Rica's capital, San Jose, and is part of the region of Puntarenas, on the Pacific Coast.

Emergency response agencies activated

Three people suffered fatal heart attacks that coincided with the time of the earthquake -- two in Jacó and one person further south in Coronado -- according to a statement from Costa Rica's presidency.
It said the country's Judicial Investigation Agency was investigating the deaths.
At least one building in Jacó had been evacuated due to apparent damage and there were reports of walls collapsing and objects falling in other parts of the country, but there were no reports of any further injuries, the statement said.
Costa Rica's hospitals were functioning normally and minor power outages had been quickly resolved, it said, with the quake felt most severely in the provincial districts of Quepos, Parrita and Garabito -- of which Jacó is capital.
The presidency said that emergency response agencies had been activated and remained on alert following the quake.
President Luis Guillermo Solís earlier tweeted that no tsunami warning had been issued.
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