TEHRAN - A 5.1 magnitude earthquake jolted Iran's oil-rich southwest on Tuesday and caused minor damage to buildings, the official IRNA news agency said.

The quake occurred at 12:20 a.m. EST near the town of Ghaleh-tal in an eastern part of Khuzestan province and the tremor was felt in the provincial capital Ahvaz and elsewhere, IRNA reported.

Khuzestan is the heartland of the oil industry in the world's number four producer but most oil fields lie west and south from the quake's reported epicenter.

"Rescue workers have been sent to some of the villages and towns hit by the earthquake and fortunately they have only reported damages such as cracks in the walls of some houses," a local official, Yadollah Janaki, told IRNA.

Natural disaster experts say oil-producing Iran is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world because it is criss-crossed by several major faultlines.

(Reporting by Zahra Hosseinian; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Robert Woodward)