At least seven people were killed in a 6.5-magnitude earthquake that jolted southeastern Iran on Monday, damaging buildings in outlying mountainous areas, the region's governor said.
"Seven people have been killed and hundreds have been injured. Hundreds of people are still trapped under the rubbles," Esmail Najjar, governor of Iran's Kerman province, the centre of the quake, told the semi-official Mehr news agency reported on Tuesday.
State television said at least three villages had been destroyed.
The U.S. Geological Survey put the quake's magnitude at 6.3.
The late Monday quake, with epicenter near the town of Hosseinabad in Kerman, was followed by 22 tremors, including one of 5.0 magnitude, the agency said quoting the geophysics department of Tehran university.
Hosseinabad lies near the city of Bam, the site of the deadliest earthquake where some 31,000 people were killed in 2003.
"So far damages have been concentrated in villages in the areas of Sahraj and seven dead and hundreds of injured have been removed from the debris," Mehr quoted Kerman governor Esmail Najjar as saying.
"Considering the damages the death toll is expected to rise," he said.
Quake includes 30 villages with low population
Mohammad Javad Kamyab, an employee of Kerman province governor's office, told Reuters there were 30 villages in the quake-hit area.
"These villages are not heavily populated...We are not expecting a high death toll and so far 25 people have been injured," he said.
Another local official said access to the damaged villages "was very difficult".
"Rescue teams have been dispatched to the quake-hit area ... and are communicating via walkie-talkies," Hossein Baqeri, head of Iran's National Crisis Management unit, told state television.
The quake struck at 10:12 pm (18:42 GMT) Monday and was even felt in the bordering province of Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Many people left their houses in the city of Zahedan ... It was also felt in the towns of Bam, Khash and Iranshahr," the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Ali Reza, a resident of Bam, told Reuters by telephone: "There was no damage in the city of Bam but we felt the quake."
Iran sits astride several major fault lines in the Earth's crust and is prone to frequent earthquakes, many of which have been devastating.
State television, quoting an unnamed local Red Crescent official, said: "In some rural parts of the region ... the quake has caused heavy damage to buildings, especially in Hosseinabad village, where the houses were made of earthen bricks."
Mohsen Salehi, head of disaster management of Kerman province, told state news agency IRNA late on Monday that the communication lines in the area were down and the quake was followed by mild tremors.
State media reported that the quake affected region was largely mountainous and hence access to it was cut off making it difficult for relief to reach the victims.
In 2008 a magnitude 6.1 quake struck the southern port of Bandar Abbas, killing at least seven people and injuring 40.