Pope Francis asks for prayers after earthquake in Iran

Pope Francis has expressed his sympathy to the victims of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that hit the country yesterday.

So far, 37 deaths have been reported. Reports say twelve villages were completely destroyed and terrified residents spent the night in the open.

Food and water are being distributed to some 200 families by aid agencies, and electricity and telephone lines are being slowly restored.

Official statements say that Iran's only nuclear station, located in Bushehr 55 miles from the earthquake zone, was not damaged.

Pope Francis asked Christians to pray for people affected by the quake.

"I express my nearness to those struck by this catastrophe. Let us pray for all our brothers and sisters in Iran," he said.

Iran is located on many seismic faults and has been struck by many devastating earthquakes in the past.

In December 2003, an earthquake caused the deaths of 31,000 people in the southern city of Bam.

Then in August last year, two 6.4 earthquakes cost 306 lives and left more than 3,000 people injured near Tabriz, north west Iran.