China said on Monday that it has been closely monitoring developments following the 7.3-magnitude earthquake along the Iran-Iraq border that has killed more than 300 and injured thousands, adding that the country will offer timely assistance based on actual needs.
The Chinese government has launched an urgent humanitarian response system and will offer assistance based on the actual needs of Iraq and Iran, read a notice posted on the website of China's Ministry of Commerce on Monday.
More than 348 people were killed in Iran and 6,600 were injured, while six have died in Iraq as well, Reuters reported.
The earthquake was felt in several western provinces of Iran, but the hardest hit province was Kermanshah, which announced three days of mourning. More than 236 of the victims were in Sarpol-e Zahab county in Kermanshah province, about 15 kilometers from the Iraqi border.
Iranian state television said the quake had caused heavy damage in some villages where houses were made of earthen bricks. Rescuers were struggling to find survivors trapped under collapsed buildings.
The quake also triggered landslides that hindered rescue efforts, officials told Iranian state television. At least 14 provinces in Iran had been affected, Iranian media reported.
The US Geological Survey said the quake measured magnitude 7.3. An Iraqi meteorology official put the quake's magnitude at 6.5 with the epicenter in Penjwin in Sulaimaniyah province in the Kurdistan region, close to the main border crossing with Iran.
Kurdish health officials said at least six people were killed in Iraq with at least 68 injured. Iraq's health and local officials said the worst-hit area was Darbandikham district, near the border with Iran, where at least 10 houses had collapsed and the district's only hospital was severely damaged.
Electricity was cut off in several Iranian and Iraqi cities, and fears of aftershocks sent thousands of people in both countries out onto the streets and parks in cold weather.
The Iranian seismological center registered around 118 aftershocks and said more were expected. The head of the Iranian Red Crescent said more than 70,000 people were in need of emergency shelter.
Iran is one of the most seismically active countries in the world, being crossed by several major fault lines that cover at least 90 percent of the country. As a result, destructive earthquakes in Iran occur constantly.
The deadliest quake in Iran's modern history happened in June 1990. It destroyed the northern cities of Rudbar, Manjil, and Lushan, along with hundreds of villages, killing about 37,000 people, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
An earthquake in the southeastern city of Bam in December 2003 killed 26,000 people.