A powerful earthquake centered 30 km to the east of city of Halabja, near the Iran-Iraq border has killed more than 400 people, injuring more than 2000 in Iran alone.

Families with injured loved ones in Sarpol-e Zahab hospital that has been badly damaged and cannot accept patients. Photo: Farzad Menati/Tasnim.

According to Iranian Seismological Center at University of Tehran, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake shook the mountainous Iran-Iraq border region Sunday Nov 12, followed by at least 50 aftershocks.

Iran’s western province of Kermanshah which borders Iraq through the Zagros Mountains has suffered significant damage.

The earthquake hit at 9:18pm local time.

Mojtaba Nikkerdar, deputy governor of Kermanshah province told state media that rescuers were working through the night to find people trapped. Nikkerdar says that the death toll would rise: “There are still people under the rubble. We hope the number of dead and injured won’t rise too much, but it will rise.”

On the Iranian side rescue efforts have been slow. Iranian users in social media are posting photos of the destruction in their cities requesting emergency backup.

Iranian Interior Minister, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli has blamed logistics of nighttime aid-work as well as well as landslips and rock-falls in the mountainous regions affected by the earthquake: “The night has made it difficult for helicopters to fly to the affected areas and some roads are also cut off.”

The number of casualties is increasing on the Iranian side but the Iraqi government has not yet updated the media on damage or casualties.

Maskan-e Mehr in Sarpol-e Zahab is a government built affordable housing complex and Iranian users in social media are angry saying that the extent of damage shows safety standards were not enforced.

More than 100 of those who died on the Iranian side were from the town of Sarpol-e Zahab in the Kermanshah province.

Users in Iranian social media are particularly angry about the news of damages and casualties from Sarpol-e Zahab. This town is home to a government built apartment complex known as “Maskan-e Mehr” that were constructed during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presidency as an affordable housing project. These government housing complexes have been heavily damaged and angry users are asking questions about building safety standards.

The main hospital of Sarpol-e Zahab is also badly damaged. The hospital has limited capacity, no electricity and cannot accept patients. The hospital staff and trauma team are treating many of the wounded outside of the building.

The main earthquake and 50 aftershocks have been felt all though eastern Iran. Many eastern Iranians are staying outside of their homes. Users from Tabriz have posted photos of families sleeping the night in the streets out of fear of aftershocks.

In 2003, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake destroyed the historic city of Bam in Iran, killing 26,000 people. The last major casualty earthquake in Iran struck in Varzaghan, located in East Azerbaijan province in August 2012 and killed over 300 people.