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Hundreds injured after major earthquake hits western Iran

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck Iran's western province of Kermanshah on Sunday, injuring nearly 400 people
A similarly massive tremor hit the same part of Iran last November, killing hundreds (Reuters/File photo)

A 6.4-magnitude earthquake has struck Iran's western province of Kermanshah, leaving several hundred people injured, the country's state-run news agency reported.

The earthquake hit about 17 kilometres from the Iranian city of Sarpol-e Zahab on Sunday, IRNA reported.

At least 387 people were injured, the news agency said, as nearly two dozen emergency response teams were sent to the area to assist residents and assess the damage.

Arash Lahouni, managing director of the Red Crescent Society of Iran in Kermanshah, told IRNA that no one was killed in the earthquake, which struck a mountainous region of Iran near the border with Iraq that is prone to such tremors.

That was confirmed by the region's governor general, Houshang Bazvand, who told state television that the Iranian authorities "have had no reports of fatalities so far", AFP news agency reported.

"The situation is currently under control," Bazvand said.

Lights went out, walls looked as if they were going to fall and all the neighbours were screaming

- Fariba Babayi, Sarpol-e Zahab resident

Sarpol-e Zahab residents have experienced a devastating earthquake before, as the city bore the brunt of a 7.3-magnitude tremor last November that killed 620 people and injured thousands more.

Many of the people who were hurt on Sunday sustained their injuries after rushing out into the streets of several cities amid fears of aftershocks, news agencies reported.

Sarpol-e Zahab resident Fariba Babayi described the fear that swept the city when the earthquake hit.

"Lights went out, walls looked as if they were going to fall and all the neighbours were screaming," Babayi, 36, told AFP by telephone.

"I didn't run this time, even though my mother was out calling to me."

No reports of damage to buildings

Iran's interior minister, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, urged neighbouring provinces to mobilise equipment and send help to the affected areas on Sunday, IRNA reported.

"Saving lives of the countrymen and housing the people in safer areas will remain top priorities," he said.

There were no reports of serious damage to properties, said Bazvand, the regional governor general, as reported by IRNA.

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The last major earthquake in the area damaged about 30,000 houses in November, with large numbers of residents made homeless at the start of the cold season.

On Sunday, seven weaker aftershocks were felt about an hour after the initial tremor, the strongest of which was magnitude 5.2, the country's geophysics institute said, as reported by AFP.

There were also reports that the initial quake was felt across the border in Iraq.

Morteza Salimi, another official with the country's Red Crescent Society, told Iran's semi-official news agency ISNA that the earthquake hit areas "just reconstructed" after what happened a year ago, AFP reported.

"We cannot go back to normal life anymore. There are all the bad memories, the trauma people live with," Babayi, the Sarpol-e Zahab resident, told AFP.

Iran sits on top of two major tectonic plates and sees frequent seismic activity.

In 2003, a 6.6-magnitude tremor struck the country's southeast, decimating the ancient mud-brick city of Bam and killing at least 31,000 people.