An earthquake with a magnitude-7.3 hit the Middle East on Sunday. It hit on the border of Iran and Iraq just as people were going to sleep. The major shock was so strong that people felt tremors as far away as Turkey and Pakistan. More than 530 people died, and more than seven thousand others were injured.
Most of the areas that were affected are inhabited by Kurds. The Kurds are an ethnic group that share the same language and culture.
One of the worst-hit places was Sarpol-e-Zahab, in Iran. The town is in the Zagros Mountains, which divide Iran and Iraq. Many of the buildings in the area collapsed, while others cracked and became unstable. This small town is without electricity, water and gas. Residents set up tents and built fires to keep warm outside the damaged buildings.
Close to 200 aftershocks have hit the border region since sunday night. People are scared to go back into their damaged homes. Rescue work has been slow to reach the affected areas. An emergency group called the Red Crescent said 70,000 people needed shelter from the bitter winter weather.
Iran has had many quakes in the past, including a big one in 2003 that killed 26,000 people. Earth’s crust is made up of tectonic plates. Iran sits on the boundary of the Arabian and Eurasian plates. When these huge segments move past each other or break, they cause earthquakes.
Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, travelled on Tuesday to Kermanshah, the area hardest hit by the earthquake. Iranian Officials also declared Tuesday as a national day of mourning. Newspapers broke with tradition to publish their front page headlines in the Kurdish language. This was a move to show their solidarity towards the Kurdish people that have been greatly affected by the deadly earthquake.