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207 killed in Iran-Iraq border quake

A RESCUE worker searches debris for survivors with his sniffing dog after an earthquake in Sarpol-e-Zahab, Iran. (Pouria Pakizeh/ISNA via AP)

A RESCUE worker searches debris for survivors with his sniffing dog after an earthquake in Sarpol-e-Zahab, Iran. (Pouria Pakizeh/ISNA via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – A powerful earthquake shook the Iran-Iraq border late Sunday, killing 207 people and injuring over 2,500 in the mountainous region of Iran alone, Iranian media reported.

The temblor killed at least seven people in Iraq and injured 321 there, all in the country’s northern, semiautonomous Kurdish region, according to Iraq’s Interior Ministry.

The magnitude-7.3 quake was centered 31 kilometers outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the most recent measurements from the US Geological Survey. It struck at a depth of 23.2 kilometers, a shallow depth that can have broader damage. Magnitude 7 earthquakes on their own are capable of widespread, heavy damage.

The quake was felt as far west as the Mediterranean coast. Its worst damage appeared to be in Iran’s western Kermanshah province, which sits in the Zagros Mountains that divide Iran and Iraq. Residents in the rural area rely mainly on farming to make a living.

Iranian social media and news agencies showed images and videos of people fleeing their homes into the night. More than 100 aftershocks followed.

Iran’s state-run television reported the increase in fatalities early yesterday and said rescue work was continuing overnight and would accelerate during the daytime.

Iran’s Health Ministry put the number of injured at more than 2,500, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered his condolences yesterday morning and urged rescuers and all government agencies to do all they could to help those affected, state media reported.

The semi-official ILNA news agency said at least 14 provinces in Iran had been affected by the earthquake.

Officials announced that schools in Kermanshah and Ilam provinces would be closed yesterday because of the temblor.

In Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi issued a directive for the country’s civil defense teams and “related institutions” to respond to the natural disaster.

Brig. Gen. Saad Maan, an Interior Ministry spokesman, gave the casualty figures for Iraq.

The quake could be felt across Iraq, shaking buildings and homes from Irbil to Baghdad, where people fled into the streets of the capital.

The Iraqi city of Halabja, closest to the epicenter, is notorious for the 1988 chemical attack in which Saddam Hussein’s regime killed some 5,000 people with mustard gas – the deadliest chemical weapons attack ever against civilians.