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Death toll from Iran-Iraq earthquake crosses 400

TEHRAN —  The death toll from powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake that struck about 19 miles (31 kilometers) outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, has reached 445, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. 7,370 injured in the Sunday earthquake along the Iran-Iraq border, state media said on Monday, and rescuers were searching for dozens trapped under rubble in the mountainous area rebuilt since the end of the ruinous 1980s war.

The worst damage appeared to be in the Kurdish town of Sarpol-e-Zahab in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah, which sits in the Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and Iraq.

The only hospital in the town was heavily damaged and the army set field hospitals, although many of the injured were moved to other cities, including Tehran.

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Residents fled into the streets as the quake struck, without time to grab their possessions, as apartment complexes collapsed into rubble.

Outside walls of some complexes were sheared off by the quake, power and water lines were severed, and telephone service was disrupted.

Residents dug frantically through wrecked buildings for survivors as they wailed. Firefighters from Tehran joined other rescuers in the desperate search, using dogs to inspect the rubble.

At least seven deaths were reported in neighbouring Iraq, with 535 people hurt. The quake also created cracks in a major dam holding back Iraq’s Diyala river, causing it to sink lower.

It also triggered landslides in the mountainous region along the Iran-Iraq border and destroyed buildings, shattering windows and sending people running for safety.