Civilians look at destroyed buildings after an earthquake at the city of Sarpol-e-Zahab in western Iran, on Nov. 13, 2017.. Photo: Pouria Pakizeh / AFP/Getty Images
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Sunday night’s earthquake which struck the Iraq-Iran border has been deemed the deadliest earthquake in 2017, with the death toll rising to over 450 and thousands more injured.
The magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit just 23.2 kilometers (14.4 miles) below the surface approximately 31 kilometers (19 miles) outside of Halabja, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq as recorded by the US Geological Society (USGS).
The death toll rose to over 450 with more than 7,500 injuries between the two countries. The hardest hit areas were the towns of Sarpol Zahab and Qasr-e Shirin in Iran’s western Kermanshah province, a Kurdish region which is already among the poorest in the country.
Both countries continue to assess the total devastation, but the earthquake has already set a grim annual record for 2017. The earthquake’s death toll has now surpassed that of the Mexico City, Mexico earthquake which hit in September and claimed the lives of 369 people.
Based on the location of the epicenter near the border regions of Iraq and Iran, it is likely that it released strain created by the collision of two tectonic plates which move at a rate of less than three centimeters (one inch) per year as reported by the National Geographic.
The Arabia plate, which contains Iraq, Syria and Jordan slides northeast toward the Eurasia plate to which Iran belongs.
Although the movement is slow, it’s enough to produce the 1,500--kilometer-long (930-mile-long) Zagros Mountain range that stretches across northeastern Iraq and western Iran.
According to the USGS, the merger of the two plates caused a massive 8.0 earthquake in 1945 which sparked a tsunami within the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman killing more than 4,000 people.