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Death toll tops 200 in magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Iran; Iraq also suffers casualties

Death toll tops 200 in magnitude 7.2 earthquake in Iran; Iraq also suffers casualties
The earthquake's epicenter was 19 miles outside the Iraqi city of Halabja, near the border between Iran and Iraq. (Los Angeles Times staff)

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit the region along the border with Iraq on Sunday, killing more than 200 people and injuring nearly 1,700 in Iran, Iranian state television said.

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The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered 19 miles outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja.

Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported that 141 people had been killed in cities and towns in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah.

Iranian state TV said Iraqi officials reported at least six people dead in Iraq, along with more than 50 people injured in Sulaymaniya province and about 150 in Khanaqin city. No reports were immediately available from Iraq's government.

The head of Iran's emergency medical services, Pirhossein 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 were abuzz Sunday night with posts of people evacuating their homes, particularly in Kermanshah and Qasr-e Shirin.

Iran’s semiofficial news agency ILNA 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 temblor.

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 at least 26,000 people.

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