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The death toll in the devastating 7.3-magnitude quake that struck Iran in a region bordering Iraq has reached 540, with thousands of Iranians struggling to cope without basic necessities and making desperate pleas for help.

The region had experienced more than 100 aftershocks within the 24 hours after the quake had hit.

"Iran wept", read the front page of Aftab-e-Yazd, over a big photograph of an Iranian woman holding a lost family member in her arms.

The temblor hit about 19 miles outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and struck 14.4 miles below the surface, a somewhat shallow depth that can cause broader damage. The quake also shook the Iranian provinces of Kordestan, Ilam, Khuzestan, Markazi, West Azarbaijan, East Azarbaijan, Lorestan, Qazvin, Zanjan, Qom and Tehran. Searchers used dogs to comb the debris - just as they have since Iran's 2003 natural disaster in Bam that killed 26,000 people - although some clerics insist the animals are unclean.

The most extensive damage in Iraq occurred in the town of Darbandikhan in the country's Kurdish region.

Ahoora Niazi, who lives in Sarpol-e Zahab in Kermanshah province, filmed scenes of ruin and posted the videos on the social media.

A rescue worker searches the debris with his sniffing dog on the quake site in Sarpol-e-Zahab in western Iran on November 14.

Yesterday, Iranian officials said they were setting up relief camps for the displaced and that 22,000 tents, 52,000 blankets and tonnes of food and water had been distributed.

The Iranian Red Crescent said many areas lacked water and electricity and that aid supplies were being hampered by roads blocked by landslides.

Hospitals in nearby provinces took in numerous injured, state television said, airing footage of survivors waiting to be treated.

Iranian medical officials announced that several field hospitals have been set up in the quake-hit areas.

"We are living in a tent and we don't have enough food or water", Ali Gulani (42), from Qasr-e-Shirin, told BBC's Persian service.

Some of the buildings, which were built by government-affiliated programs and "state-owned schemes", according to a statement from the Office of the President, collapsed or were badly damaged.

Full-scale rescue operation could start only with the dawn, and yet unknown, are still people under the rubble.

"More people will die because of cold. I don't know whether they are dead or alive", Rojan Meshkat, 38, in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj told Reuters by telephone.


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