The 5.9-magnitude tremor struck in the early hours of Friday in East Azerbaijan province, Iran's Seismological Center said.
The quake, described as "moderate", was eight kilometres deep and was followed by four aftershocks.
Rescue workers are operating in 41 villages, but most of the damage was concentrated in the two villages of Varnakesh and Varzaghan, provincial governor Mohammad-Reza Pourmohammadi was quoted as saying.
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"Okay. now feeling a moderate natural disaster here in Ventura", wrote one person on Twitter.
Some 40 homes were levelled by the quake and over 200 head of cattle killed. The quake injured at least 312 people, state television reported, though only 13 needed to be hospitalized.
The USGS issued an alert warning that "significant casualties are likely and the disaster is potentially widespread".
Numerous people were injured while trying to flee their houses in panic. The gas supply was restored to all but one of the affected villages.
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Iran was shaken by the tremors of the quake last night.
Criss-crossed by several major fault lines, Iran is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world.
Almost two hours early, in neighboring Searles Valley, a 2.9 quake hit the area.
On November 12, 2017, the western province of Kermanshah was hit by a major 7.3-magnitude quake that killed 620 people.
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