Reporting from Beirut — A powerful earthquake struck a sparsely populated stretch of southeastern Iran late Monday, killing at least 11 people, injuring at least 40 and damaging 1,800 homes, state media reported early Tuesday.
The magnitude 6.5 quake struck 30 villages populated by no more than 4,000 people, state radio reported. Rescue efforts were being hampered by downed phone lines and landslides that blocked access to certain villages, official media cited officials as saying.
Almost exactly seven years ago in the same region, an earthquake measuring 6.6 struck the nearby city of Bam, killing more than 25,000 people and destroying a medieval castle that was one of Iran's most treasured archeological sites.
The worst of Monday's 10:12 p.m. quake appears to have struck the village of Hosseinabad, between the townships of Fahraj and Rigan, both less than 40 miles east of Bam in Kerman province, a vast region of high deserts and mountains.
Authorities in the provincial capital, also called Kerman, convened an emergency meeting to oversee rescue operations. The Red Crescent, the local affiliate of the Red Cross, set up tents to shelter those whose homes were destroyed or too unstable.
Iran is one of the world's most seismically active countries, crisscrossed by several major fault lines.
Iranian villagers continue to build mud-brick homes that collapse and smother them during earthquakes. State television reported that some locals in Monday's earthquake remained pinned in their homes.