At least 16 people were hurt in a 5.4-magnitude earthquake that struck southern Iran on Wednesday at 9:25 a.m. local time.
According to the semi-official Mehr news agency, more than a dozen villages were damaged, and a number were “completely destroyed” in the Ardakan region of Fars province.
The website of Tehran University's seismological center reported that it struck close to the town of Ardakan, where a uranium ore purification facility exists, according to a map of Iran's nuclear sites published by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) organization.
The epicenter of the quake was located about 615 kilometers (380 miles) south of Tehran, and 95 kilometers (59 miles) northwest of the provincial capital of Shiraz, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Disaster management official Hamid Taghzadeh was quoted as saying “17 villages have been damaged, of which six to 10 are completely destroyed.”
The area has been hit by at least five aftershocks since the main temblor struck, also affecting residents in Shiraz some seven hours away, who told CNN that it "shook the floor" and lasted about three seconds.
Iran is often struck by earthquakes, as it sits astride several major fault lines in the Earth's crust. A major earthquake shook the southeastern province of Kerman on December 21, destroying several villages, tearing down power lines and leaving seven people dead.
In December 2003, 31,000 people were killed in a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that hit the southern city of Bam.