A powerful pre-dawn earthquake in mountainous south central Iran has killed at least 420 people, injured hundreds of others and destroyed several villages.
Local officials say the toll from the magnitude six-point-four earthquake is expected to rise as rescue teams reach remote villages. Iran's state television broadcast images of flattened villages and ambulances carrying the dead and the wounded.
U.S. geologists say the epicenter of the quake was 60 kilometers northwest of the city of Kerman. The area is about 200 kilometers north of the ancient city of Bam, where more than 30,000 people died in an earthquake of similar magnitude in December, 2003.
A U.S. State Department spokesman said Washington is prepared to send aid to the stricken region, but is awaiting word from relief agencies on the kinds of help needed.