In Iraq, crashing boulders, collapsed homes and a town on edge after powerful earthquake

November 15, 2017 2:16 am

In the craggy mountains that separate northern Iraq from Iran, people are used to earthquakes. The area sits atop a major fault line that frequently sends shock waves through towns and villages.

But few here can recall anything like the magnitude 7.3 temblor that rocked the region Sunday night.

“Last year there was a small one, but this is crazy,” Ahsan Amin, a 42-year-old security guard, said Tuesday as he surveyed one of several flattened homes in the Iraqi town of Darbandikhan.

Although most of the death and destruction occurred on the Iranian side of the border, at least 10 people were killed and hundreds injured in Iraq.

The area around Darbandikhan, less than 15 miles from the epicenter, suffered the worst of it: five dead, scores injured and more than 2,000 displaced in the town alone.

Residents went to pay their respects Tuesday at mourning tents erected by the families of the dead. The survivors were on edge, whispering rumors that another big one was on the way or that a secret Iranian nuclear test caused the quake.

Alarming cracks appeared at the top of a dam holding back the Diyala River, raising fears that it might burst. Security officers with megaphones drove through low-lying, riverside neighborhoods late Sunday night, urging residents to evacuate immediately.

About a dozen residents crowded around Mayor Nasih Hassan at his office Tuesday, demanding to know when they could return home or what other shelter was available.

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