Powerful earthquake hits Iran, Iraq

A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.3 struck Iran and Iraq on Sunday, collapsing walls and damaging historic buildings in the cities of Sarpol-e Zahab and Halabja in western Iran and also killing at least one person in Iraq.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from Iraq, but local media reported an unspecified number of casualties and damaged buildings there.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake struck about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northeast of the border late Sunday evening. It said it had a depth of 14.2 miles (23.9 kilometers).

The quake was felt as far away as Isfahan, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) southeast of the quake’s epicenter. The quake caused buildings to sway in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

“I was preparing dinner and suddenly the whole house moved like chewing gum,” said Gholamreza, a 44-year-old civil servant in Sarpol-e Zahab. “It was the strongest quake I’ve felt in my life.”

The head of Iran’s Seismological Center, Ahmad Reza Radan, said the quake damaged “shelter, human lives and infrastructure.” The state-run IRNA news agency said the quake caused injuries in at least three provinces in Iran’s west.

Sarpol-e Zahab, known locally as “Little Tehran,” is a historic city of about 350,000 that was heavily damaged in a 7.3 magnitude quake in 2003 that killed 25,000 people in the country’s northwest.

The quake triggered a tsunami warning, but was quickly lifted.

“The tsunami threat is over,” the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

Babak Ahmadi, a 38-year-old bus driver in Sarpol-e Zahab, said the quake knocked out the power in his home.

“I was sitting with my kids having dinner and suddenly the house began to shake,” he said. “I ran out into the street where people were screaming. It was terrifying.”

Raed Fares, 43, said he and his family ran out into the street when the quake struck.

“My relatives are still under the rubble,” he said. “I’ve been calling them but I can’t reach them.”

Radan, the Seismological Center director, said the quake caused buildings and homes to collapse in at least three Iranian provinces: Sarpol-e Zahab, Kermanshah and Hamadan. He said there was no threat of a tsunami.

Iran sits on several major fault lines and is prone to near-daily quakes. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people. Another massive quake in 2005 killed more than 5,000 people in and around the northwestern city of Kermanshah.

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