More than 400 people have been killed – and thousands injured – in an earthquake that struck Iran’s western province of Kermansh.

As thousands of homeless Iranians huddled against the cold as day turned to night, rescue teams sought desperately to try and find signs of life amid the rubble of collapsed buildings in towns and villages close to the Iraq border.

Iran’s English-language Press TV said at least 450 people were killed and 7,000 were injured, while the semi-official Tasnim agency put the total at 445 killed and 7,370 injured. Doubled counting is common in the aftermath of such tragedies and the death toll could fluctuate. Emergency services also warned the toll was likely to increase as they gained access to more remote mountainous areas.

More than half of the casualties are from the Kurdish-majority town of Sarpol-e Zahab in Kermansh province. The only hospital in the town was heavily damaged and the army set up field hospitals.

A total of 70,000 people are in need of emergency shelter across 14 affected provinces around the country, the Iranian Red Crescent warned in a statement.

Electricity has been cut off in many cities across the two countries and fear of aftershocks has driven many people outside despite the cold November temperatures.

Rescue workers continued despite the difficulties posed by landslides and the health ministry put out a call for emergency blood donations.

Dozens of buildings and the only hospital in the town of 30,000 people was also badly damaged by the tremors.