Powerful earthquake strikes the Iraq-Iran border

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A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.2 has struck northeast Iraq near the border with Iran, seismologists and residents say. Shaking was felt across the region but only few details were immediately available.

The earthquake, which struck at 9:18 p.m. local time on Sunday, was centered about 32 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of Halabja, a city in Iraqi Kurdistan. The epicenter is just a short distance from the border with northwest Iran.

The earthquake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.2, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. It said about 34 kilometers (21 miles) below the surface, making it a shallow earthquake.

There was no immediate word on damage or casualties, but tremors were felt across the region, according to residents. Tremors were felt in Kuwait, Syria, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and parts of eastern Turkey.

“i never felt anything stronger than this in my life,” a resident in Sulaymaniyah, about 89 kilometers (55 miles) from the epicenter, told the European-Mediterranean Seismological Center. Others also reported feeling very strong shaking.

According to computer models from the USGS, as many as 68.3 million people across the region may have felt Sunday’s earthquake, including 2.9 million people who may have experienced “strong” to “very strong” shaking.

“Overall, the population in this region resides in structures that are highly vulnerable to earthquake shaking, though some resistant structures exist,” the USGS said in an assessment. “Significant casualties and damage are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread.”

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