On 12 November 2017 at 21:18 local time (18:18 UTC) northeast Iraq experienced an earthquake in the magnitude of 7.3 on the Richter scale, according to United States Geological Survey (USGS). The epicenter of this earthquake is located 32kms from the city of Halabja. According to the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS), approximately 1,840,000 people live with within 100km of the epicenter of this earthquake in both Iraq and Iran.
There have been nine reported fatalities and over 550 people injured in Iraq as a result of the earthquake, according to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). The Darbandikhan areas has been most severely impacted, with most earthquake related injuries reported in Darbandikhan, Halabja, and Garmyan districts. Many houses in the areas of Darbandikhan, Maidan, Qurato and Bamo have been damaged, and some have been destroyed.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the main hospital in Darbandikhan is closed due to extensive damage, but the Public Health Center (PHC) in the town is functioning. WHO has provided a tent and medicine to support the functioning of this PHC. All critical cases are referred to Sulaymaniyah hospital, which is functioning as normal. The maternity hospital in Halabja was closed for a few hours following the quake due to damage but has been reopened, and the Halabja emergency hospital is only partially damaged and continues to treat cases. WHO has supplied a tent to expand hospital capacity. The 40-bed district hospital in Shaheed Tawfeeq is partially damaged, and the Shaheed Hameed Hospital is slightly damaged, with both hospitals still functional.
According to the KRG, damage to infrastructure is most severe in Darbandikhan, where landslides have blocked the Darbandikhan tunnel and work to clear and open the road is ongoing. The water and electricity network of Darbandikhan is also damaged and requires significant repair. The water treatment plant in Halabja is partially damaged and producing clean water at only 50 per cent capacity. OCHA will follow up with UNDP to see if repairs can be expedited. Four schools in the Darbandikhan area are unusable at present due to structural damage and three schools in Halabja are reportedly heavily damaged. UNICEF will conduct a separate school-focused assessment in the coming days to determine if specific education assistance is required.
The Mosul Dam and Dokan Dam are reportedly undamaged. However, the Darbandikhan Dam, a multi-purpose embankment on the Diyala river, has been impacted by landslides that have partially blocked the dam’s spillway and may have caused structural damage. The Ministry of Water Resources has undertaken an assessment of the dam, but the results are not yet known.
Humanitarian response and coordination:
Ambulances were mobilized from all Departments of Health in affected areas to transport critically injured people, primarily to Sulaymaniyah hospital. WHO has also sent two ambulances, an Immediate Response Team and trauma and surgical kits to support Sulaymaniyah hospital. A humanitarian partner, Aspen, and the NGO International Medical Corps have also sent medical teams to Sulaymaniyah to provide support. The Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) immediately deployed a medical team that has provided assistance in Sulaymaniyah and Halabja.
The Turkish Red Crescent deployed a team from Erbil immediately after the earthquake to assess damage and provide shelter assistance. An OCHA-led inter-agency assessment team has been on the ground since 13 November assessing humanitarian needs in Darbandikhan, Sulaymaniyah and Halabja. Due to the extensive property damage, and following a request from the local authorities, AFAD provided 60 tents in Darbandikhan town. AFAD plans to distribute further 60 tents in Darbandikhan and Bamo tomorrow, once these tents arrive by air.
According to the KRG, the situation has stabilized and is now under control. The KRG reports that it is sending assistance to the affected families and providing food, shelter and medical assistance. A small United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team that is highly specialized in natural disaster management will arrive tomorrow in support of the response efforts of the authorities.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.