Tehran: A powerful magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit the region along the border between Iran and Iraq, killing at least 61 people and injuring 300 in Iran, an Iranian official said. Iranian state TV said Iraqi officials had reported six deaths and 200 injuries inside Iraq, though there was no official comment from Iraq's government.
The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered 31 kilometers outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja. The Islamic Republic of Iran News Network quoted the head of the country's emergency medical services, Pir Hossein Koulivand, as saying early Monday that at least 61 had been killed and 300 injured on Iran's side of the border.
Iranian state TV also said Iraqi officials reported at least six people dead inside Iraq, along with more than 50 people injured in Sulaymaniyah province and about 150 in Khanaquin city. No reports were immediately available from Iraq's government. Koulivand earlier told a local television station that the earthquake knocked out electricity in Iran's western cities of Mehran and Ilam. He also said 35 rescue teams were providing assistance.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in a phone call with the Interior Ministry emphasized the need for maximum effort from officials. Iranian social media was abuzz Sunday night with posts of people evacuating their homes, particularly in Kermanshah and Ghasr-e Shirin. The semi-official Iranian 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 Monday because of the tremor. Iran sits on many 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.