A powerful earthquake struck southern Iran on Tuesday, killing at least 32 people but apparently sparing the nearby Bushehr nuclear plant from any damage, Iranian state media reported.

CNN reported the magnitude-6.3 quake was centered about 100 kilometers (63 miles) southeast of the plant, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The government-run Press TV network, citing Bushehr's governor, said the single-reactor facility was undamaged.

The state-run IRNA news agency cited a plant executive as saying the facility's distance from the epicenter was the reason for the lack of damage.

However, the quake "ruined" the city of Kaki, which is near the epicenter, the state-run IRNA news agency said.

The cities of Kormouj, Dayer and Kangan and the villages of Shanbe and Sana were also seriously damaged, IRNA reported.

The Iranian Red Crescent Society sent five assessment teams to coordinate rescue operations, IRNA reported, saying ambulances were sent from Tehran to assist in the rescue effort. The semi-official Fars news agency said helicopters also have been sent to help.

At least three strong aftershocks struck the same area in the hour following the quake Tuesday, according to the USGS, and Press TV said authorities expect the number of casualties to rise.

The earthquake could be felt across the Persian Gulf in Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, where some buildings in Abu Dhabi were evacuated and some businesses sent their employees home for the day.

Interactive map: World's biggest earthquakes since 1900

It was not immediately clear whether the Bushehr plant was continuing to operate in the wake of the earthquake.

Iran began construction on the plant in 1975, before the country's Islamic revolution. Russia stepped in during the 1990s to finish construction of the plant, which the International Atomic Energy Agency says first connected to Iran's electrical grid in 2011.

Interactive: Measuring the magnitude of earthquakes

The damage that earthquakes with magnitudes of 6.0 to 6.9 can produce varies widely. Near the epicenter, quakes on the lower to middle parts of that range could leave negligible to slight damage in buildings of good design, and considerable to great damage -- such as broken or fallen walls -- in poorly designed structures, according to the USGS.

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