Death toll from earthquake rises to 445
TEHRAN, Iran (AP):
Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency is reporting that 445 people were killed and 7,370 injured in the Sunday earthquake along the Iran-Iraq border. Official reports had put death toll at 407.
There was elaboration on the discrepancy in Tasnim's report, though double-counting is common in the aftermath of such emergency situations in Iran.
More than half of the casualties are from Kurdish-majority town of Sarpol-e-Zahab in Kermansh province. The only hospital in the town was heavily damaged and the army set field hospitals.
The magnitude 7.3 quake was centred 19 miles (31 kilometres) outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the most recent measurements from the US Geological Survey.
Iran's government declared today as a national mourning day. The quake was felt as far west as the Mediterranean coast. Iran's western Kermanshah province, sitting in the Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and Iraq, was the hardest hit.
Pope Francis is offering prayers for the dead and is urging strength to rescue crews trying to find survivors.
Francis sent two messages of condolences yesterday via the Vatican's secretary of state.
The notes said Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the disaster and offered his solidarity to those who had lost loved ones.
"Upon the injured and the emergency and civil authorities engaged in rescue and recovery efforts, His Holiness invokes the divine blessings of consolation and strength," he added.