0552 GMT March 19, 2018
Local officials said the death toll would rise as search and rescue teams reached remote areas of Iran.
The powerful quake hit at around 9:20 p.m. (1820 GMT) on Sunday. After initially pinning the quake's epicenter inside Iraq, the USGS then placed it across the border in Iran on Monday morning. It struck 23.2 kilometers below the surface, a shallow depth that can have broader damage.
It was felt in several western provinces of Iran including Kordestan, Ilam, Khuzestan, Hamedan, West Azarbaijan, East Azarbaijan, Lorestan, Qazvin, Zanjan, and Qom. But the hardest hit province was Kermanshah, which announced three days of mourning.
Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei offered his condolences on Monday, urging all government agencies and armed forces to mobilize “all their means” to help those affected. President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to tour earthquake-damaged areas on Tuesday.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli and Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi have flown to Kermanshah to personally supervise the rescue operations.
More than 300 of the victims were in Sarpol-e Zahab town in Kermanshah Province. A woman and her baby were pulled out alive from the rubble on Monday in Sarpol-e Zahab, home to some 85,000 people.
The quake caused heavy damage in some villages where houses were made of earthen bricks. Iranian TV aired footage of disfigured buildings, vehicles under rubble and wounded people wrapped in blankets. It also showed tents, blankets and food being distributed in areas hit by the quake.
“We need shelter,” a middle-aged man in Sarpol-e Zahab told national TV.
At dawn on Monday in Sarpol-e Zahab, buildings stood disfigured, their former facades now rubble on crumpled vehicles.
Over 70,000 people needed emergency shelter, the Iranian Red Crescent said. Officials said they were setting up relief camps but that access to the affected areas was not easy.
Iran’s emergency services chief, Pir Hossein Koolivand, said it was “difficult to send rescue teams to the villages because the roads have been cut off... there have been landslides.”
Across the area, thousands of rescue workers and special teams using sniffer dogs and heat sensors searched wreckage. Hundreds of ambulances and dozens of army helicopters mobilized for rescue operations including in rural areas.
Iran’s police, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and its affiliated Basij volunteer forces were dispatched to the quake-hit areas.
Tremor in Iraq
Across the border in Iraq, in more sparsely populated areas, the Health Ministry said that the quake had killed seven people in the northern province of Sulaimaniyah, and one in Diyala Province to its south. Over 500 people were injured in both provinces and the nearby province of Kirkuk.
Footage posted on Twitter showed panicked people fleeing a building in Sulaimaniyah, as windows shattered at the moment the quake struck, while images from the nearby town of Darbandikhan showed walls and concrete structures that had collapsed.
Iraqi health authorities said they treated dozens of people in the aftermath, most for shock.
Electricity and water 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 153 aftershocks and said more were expected.
Iran sits astride major fault lines and is prone to frequent tremors.
In 1990, a 7.4-magnitude quake near the Caspian Sea, in northern Iran, killed 40,000 people and left 300,000 injured and half a million homeless. In just seconds, the quake reduced dozens of towns and nearly 2,000 villages to rubble.
Thirteen years later, a catastrophic quake struck the ancient southeast Iranian city of Bam, famed for its mud brick buildings, killing at least 31,000 people and flattening swathes of the city.
Iran has experienced at least two major quake disasters since, one in 2005 that killed more than 600 and another in 2012 that left some 300 dead.
Meanwhile, foreign dignitaries offered condolences to and sympathies with the Iranian government and people over the earthquake.
Among them were German Ambassador to Iran Michael Klor-Berchtold, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, and the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
In a message to President Rouhani on Monday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad extended his condolences to the Iranian nation, especially families of the victims and survivors of the earthquake, saying he was sure that the Iranian nation was able to weather this calamitous incident.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also sent a message to his Iranian counterpart, expressing condolences over the deadly quake in west Iran.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared his country’s readiness to send humanitarian aid and necessary equipment to quake-hit regions in Iran.
In a another development, UK’s ambassador to Tehran, Nicholas Hopton, took to Twitter to condole with the families of the quake victims and other people harmed in this natural disaster.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed condolences on his Twitter account, sympathizing with families of quake victims in Iran and Iraq.
The Foreign Ministry of Pakistan has released a statement condoling with the people and governments of Iran and Iraq.
In a message to President Rouhani, Ilham Aliyev, the president of the Republic of Azerbaijan, sympathized with the Iranian nation and survivors of the quake.
Other countries expressing condolences over the deadly quake in Twitter accounts included Germany, France, Canada, Armenia, Estonia, Norway, Croatia, Lithuania, and Latvia.
Meanwhile, the president of the UN General Assembly condoled with the Iranian people over the deadly quake in western Iran.
In a post on his official Twitter account, Miroslav Lajčák expressed his concern about the rising death toll from the earthquake, which hit the border area between Iran and Iraq on Sunday night, noting that the UN General Assembly stood with governments of both countries and quake survivors.
IRNA, Press TV, Reuters, AFP and AP contributed to this story.