UPDATE 1 – Strong earthquake hits near Kerman in southeast Iran

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A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 has struck near the city of Kerman in southeastern Iran, seismologists say. It comes less than a day after a smaller earthquake caused injuries in the same area.

The earthquake, which struck at 1:11 a.m. local time on Wednesday, was centered about 64 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of Kerman, the capital of the province with the same name and one of the country’s largest cities.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) put the preliminary magnitude of the early morning earthquake at 6.0. It said the quake struck at a depth of about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), making it a very shallow earthquake.

There was no immediate word on damage or casualties, but the earthquake was widely felt across the region. “That was strong enough to wake everybody around. It’s starting to get us [scared],” one resident in Kerman told the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC).

Computer models from the USGS estimated that as many as 16.5 million people across the region may have felt the earthquake, although the vast majority would have felt only light shaking. “There is a low likelihood of casualties and damage,” the USGS said.

Iran sits astride several major fault lines and is prone to frequent tremors. Wednesday’s earthquake came less than a day after a 5.9-magnitude earthquake hit the same region near Kerman, injuring at least 17 people.

Even earthquakes with relatively low magnitudes often cause serious damage and large numbers of casualties in certain parts of Iran due to poor construction. Tremors which strike late at night or early in the morning are especially deadly as most residents are sleeping in their homes at that time.

On November 12, a powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck northeast Iran near the border with Iraq, killing at least 630 people and injuring thousands more. And in August 2012, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck near Ahar in East Azerbaijan Province, killing at least 306 people.

Some 31,000 people were killed in December 2003 when a strong 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck near Bam in southeastern Iran, causing widespread devastation. The country’s worst ever earthquake happened in the year 856, killing an estimated 200,000 people.

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