A magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck northwestern Iran early Friday, killing at least five people and injuring 120 others, officials said.

The temblor struck Tark county in Iran's Eastern Azerbaijan province at 2.17am local time, Iran's seismological centre said. That's some 400km northwest of Iran's capital, Tehran.

Over 40 aftershocks rattled the rural region nestled in the Alborz Mountains, and residents rushed out of their homes in fear.

The head of Iran's emergency medical services, Pirhossein Koulivand, gave the casualty figures to state television. There were no immediate video or images broadcast from the area.

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Rescuers have been dispatched to the region, officials said. State TV reported the earthquake destroyed 30 homes at its epicentre.

The US Geological Survey said the quake's epicentre was at a depth of 10km. Shallow earthquakes tend to cause more damage.

Iran is on major seismic faults and experiences one earthquake a day on average. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people.

A magnitude 7 earthquake that struck western Iran in 2017 killed more than 600 people and injured more than 9000.

- AP