SURVIVORS of Sunday’s earthquake near the Iran-Iraq border are making desperate calls for help after spending a second night in close to freezing temperatures.

About 540 people were killed and close to 8,000 injured when the magnitude-7.3 earthquake – one of the strongest on the planet this year – hit on Sunday night.

Hundreds of homes were destroyed in the worst-hit Kermanshah province, which has since been hit by close to 200 aftershocks.

Visiting the region, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said state-built houses suffered more damage, and those responsible would be held accountable.

Rescuers and local residents stood on top of the remains of apartment complexes and looked through the rubble for survivors. State TV said thousands of people had spent another night in makeshift camps or out in the open.

“It is a very cold night... we need help. We need everything. The authorities should speed up their help,” one homeless young woman told journalists.

Many of the heavily damaged complexes in the badly-hit border town of Sarpol-e-Zahab were part of construction projects under former hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

One aid agency said 70,000 people needed shelter and the UN said it was “ready to assist if required”.