(AhlulBayt News Agency) - The 7.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Kermanshah Province, western Iran, on Sunday night, has so far claimed 445 lives and injured about 7,100 others.
Preceded by three smaller jolts, the earthquake happened on Sunday night near the Iran-Iraq border at 21:48 local time (18:18 GMT).
The epicenter of the quake was registered at 34.86 degrees latitude and 45.9 degrees longitude, at the depth of 11km, a shallow depth that can cause tremendous damage, in Ozgoleh region in Kermanshah Province.
The huge jolt, which rocked western provinces of Iran and areas in the eastern Iraq, was also felt as far as Persian Gulf states Qatar and Kuwait in the south, the Occupied Palestine in the west, and Turkey in the north of the quake-stricken Iran and Iraq.
It caused the biggest damage in Kermanshah, Qasr-e Shirin and Sarpol-e Zahab (about 15km from the Iraqi border) cities.
Soon after the news was published, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, First Vice-President Eshaq Janhangiri, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli and many other Iranian high-rank authorities issued messages expressing condolences to the recently bereaved over their loss and issuing orders for the necessary actions to be taken as soon as possible.
The Supreme Leader also urged military and civil forces to spare no effort in giving aid to the afflicted families.
Foreign authorities and diplomats have also issued condolence messages. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, German Ambassador in Tehran Michael Klor-Berchtold are among the high ranking politicians that sympathized with the Iranian nation and government on the tragic event.
Dozens of rescue teams and relief forces rushed to the area immediately after the incident, and battled to find survivors trapped under rubbles; however, due to the dark and mountainous region, the rescue operation faced some difficulties, but it was accelerated at sunup.
Some relief camps were also set up in Kermanshah and neighboring provinces to accommodate the afflicted people.
Civil utilities, such electricity and water, were cut off in the Iranian quake-stricken areas and the fear of aftershocks kept thousands of people on the streets and in the parks in cold weather. More than 100 aftershocks were recorded in the area.
Iranian interior minister said some roads were blocked and there was concern about casualties in remote villages.
Officials announced that, because of the quake, schools in Kermanshah and Ilam provinces are closed today (Monday).
Sitting on several major fault lines, Iran is one the most seismically active countries in the world and prone to near daily quakes. In 2003, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake killed 26,000 people in Bam in southeastern Iran and flattened the historic city. In August 2012, an earthquake killed more than 250 people in East Azerbaijan Province, northwestern Iran.