More than 300 were killed and thousands of others were injured in Iran Sunday evening (Nov. 12) after a powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck the Azgalah area, near the Iraqi border, 19 miles from Halabja, Iraq.
The semi-official Iranian Student News Agency (IRNA) reported at least 341 people were killed and nearly 6,000 more were injured. According to the Iraqi Health Ministry, eight were killed on the other side of the border, and at least 535 more were injured.
The epicenter of the quake occurred at a depth of around 33.9 kilometers (21 miles) below the surface, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
The temblor rocked a border area that is home to many Kurds. Photos posted to the internet showed flattened buildings and people sleeping in the streets, trying to avoid injury from aftershocks. In Tehran, hundreds lined up in Tehran to donated blood in response to a call from the government.
The Iranian city of Sarpol-e Zahab, in the western province of Kermanshah, was particularly hard hit. Officials said at least 236 were killed, in a population of 30,000.
The quake was felt as far as the southeastern region of Turkey, and as far west as the Mediterranean coast of Israel, in Tel Aviv.
Iran has experienced a number of earthquakes in recent years; more than 20,000 people were killed in 2003 when a quake struck the southern city of Bam, and 300 people were killed in 2012 in a double quake that struck the northern region.
Israel’s last major earthquake struck in 1927, killing 130 in Jerusalem, but the Jewish State is hit by many minor temblors each year. The walls in countless Israeli homes are marked by tiny, barely visible cracks produced by the small earthquakes that shake the foundations of the buildings from time to time.
Officials in Israel have warned repeatedly that some day, inevitably, “the big one” is going to hit.
The country lies along a 6,000-kilometer (3,700-mile)-long major fault line, the Syrian-East African Rift, which separates the African Plate and the Arabian Plate, two of Earth’s tectonic plates.
Because the region is at such high risk, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority teamed up earlier this year to train local residents in how to respond in the event of an earthquake and other natural disasters, in a joint project called “Community Emergency Response Teams.”
Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency medical response service, Jordan’s Red Crescent Society, and the Greenland Association of Hebron collaborated in the project, created by Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Magen David Adom and the European Union. Training drills took place in the Negev, Emek HaMa’ayanot, Hevel Eilot, Kibbutz Gesher, in Jordan and in the Palestinian Authority.