7.3-Magnitude Earthquake Rocks Iran and Iraq, Tremors Felt in Israel

Armenian PM extends condolences to First Vice-President of Iran on devastating earthquake

The quake, centred in Penjwin in Iraq's Sulaimaniyah province in the Kurdistan region, killed at least six people in Iraq and injured more than 68.

"The tents provided by the Red Crescent are not enough", said the region's parliamentary representative, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, according to the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA). Numerous villages affected by quake were very remote and hard to reach, said Bagheri. State television said thousands were huddling in makeshift camps while many others spent a second night in the open for fear of more tremors after some 193 aftershocks.

"It slightly damaged five historical sites including a Safavid-era caravanserai and a Sassanid-era fortress in the counties of Qasr-e Shirin, Sarpol-e Zahab and Dalahu in Kermanshah province while assessing the damage is still ongoing", CHTN cited the provincial tourism chief, Jalil Baalai, as saying.

In Sarpol-e Zahab, he asked: "Who is to be blamed for this?" Searchers used dogs to comb the debris - just as they have since Iran's 2003 quake in Bam that killed 26,000 people - although some clerics insist the animals are unclean. "Our engineers?" He said the government would hold accountable anyone found not to have upheld building standards.

Kermanshah was the worst-hit, as many houses were reduced to rubble, according to Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

The most extensive damage in Iraq occurred in the town of Darbandikhan in the country's Kurdish region.

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Mansoureh Bagheri, an Iran-based official with the Red Crescent Society, told the BBC about 12,000 residential buildings had "totally collapsed".

So far, rescue operation and assessment is being conducted on the ground and relief items including tents, ground sheets, blankets, kitchen sets, and food items such as canned food and rice are being distributed among the affected people and the people staying outdoor, scaring of getting back to their houses. "The faults and shortcomings in the construction of these buildings should be investigated".

Officials in Iran declared Tuesday as a national day of mourning and newspapers broke with tradition to publish their front page headlines in the Kurdish language, in a rare move showing solidarity with the majority-Kurdish areas worst affected.

Hundreds of ambulances and dozens of army helicopters were reported to have joined the rescue effort after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the government and armed forces to mobilise "all their means".

About 30 Red Crescent teams are working in the natural disaster zone, Irna reported.

The quake struck on the Iran-Iraq border, causing most of its damage in Iran despite an epicentre on the Iraq side of the frontier.

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