Rescuers dug with their bare hands Monday through the debris of buildings brought down by a powerful earthquake that killed more than 400 people, with nearly all of the victims in an area rebuilt since the end of the ruinous 1980s Iraq-Iran war.
Sunday night's magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck about 30 kilometers outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the most recent measurements from the US Geological Survey.
But the highest casualties occurred in the town of Sarpol-e Zahab, in Iran's Kermanshah Province.
According to official tallies, 445 Iranians were confirmed dead as of Monday afternoon. Over 7,156 others were also injured.
The National Disaster Management Organization of Iran said earlier that power cuts had been reported in Kermanshah Province. A number of villages in western Iran have also seen destruction of varying degrees.
Soon after the quake occurred, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei issued a message calling on all Iranian officials and institutions to "rush to the aid of those affected in these early hours [after the incident]."
The Leader said the country's entire range of capabilities had to be used swiftly to prevent a further rise in the death toll.
Imam Khamenei called on Iran's Armed Forces to help with removing the rubble and transferring the injured to medical centers.
Separately, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke on the phone with Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli on Sunday night, who briefed the president on the latest updates. President Rouhani then issued the necessary directives to facilitate and accelerate rescue operations.
Three days of mourning have been announced in Kermanshah.
The earthquake was felt in cities in several other Iranian provinces, including as far away as in the capital, Tehran.
People evacuate their houses in the western Iranian province of Sanandaj following a strong 7.3-magnitude earthquake, on November 12, 2017.
The quake also shook the Iranian provinces of Kordestan, Ilam, Khuzestan, Hamedan, West Azarbaijan, East Azarbaijan, Lorestan, Qazvin, Zanjan, and Qom.
Tremors were felt in other regional countries, including Turkey, Kuwait, Armenia, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain.
But the casualties and damage were limited to Iran and Iraq.
Rouhani is scheduled to travel to Kermanshah Province to oversee the rescue work on Tuesday.
Rahmani-Fazli, the interior minister and Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi have already flown to Kermanshah to personally supervise the rescue operations.
Commander of Iran's Army Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi has also arrived in Sarpol-e Zahab, one of the worst-affected areas, to oversee Army rescue operations in the region.
Hospitals in Tehran have been put on alert to treat those of the wounded who are transferred to the capital. At least 43 ambulances, four ambulance buses, and 130 emergency technicians have been stationed in the Mehrabad Airport in Tehran for a quick transfer of the victims to hospitals.
Meanwhile, foreign dignitaries have been offering condolences to and sympathies with the Iranian government and people over the earthquake.
Among them are German Ambassador to Iran Michael Klor-Berchtold, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini, and the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Pope Francis has also sent two messages of condolences on Monday via the Vatican's secretary of state, offering prayers for those who lost their lives in Iran and Iraq as a result of the powerful earthquake.
In a message to Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Monday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad extended his condolences to Iranian nation, especially families of the victims and survivors of Sunday earthquake in west Iran, saying he was sure that the Iranian nation was able to weather this calamitous incident.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has also sent a message to his Iranian counterpart, expressing condolences over the deadly quake in west Iran.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also declared his country's readiness to send humanitarian aid and necessary equipment to quake-hit regions in Iran.
In Iraq, reports said 11 people had been killed in Iraq. Some 130 Iraqis were also injured.
The most extensive damage was in the town of Darbandikhan, 75 kilometers east of the city of Sulaymaniyah, in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.
According to Kurdish Health Minister Rekawt Hama Rasheed, over 30 people were wounded in the town. "The situation there is very critical," he said.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team