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Death Toll Reaches 70 in Iranian Earthquake

Earlier tremors that sent people into the street kept the casualties down. U.S. offers aid.

April 01, 2006|From Reuters

GARAJ, Iran — Rescuers dug some survivors out of the rubble Friday after a series of earthquakes hit western Iran, but the death toll rose to at least 70, officials said.

More than 1,200 people were injured in an area around the cities of Doroud and Borujerd in the province of Lorestan, said Ali Barani, head of the provincial emergency team for disasters.

In the worst areas, brick buildings collapsed into piles of masonry and mud homes were reduced to mounds of dust.

Barani said 330 villages in the area were severely damaged, but the death toll was unlikely to rise much.

"If there are any changes, it will be very few," he said by phone from Lorestan.

Strong tremors Thursday night helped keep the toll down because they drove many to leave their homes and take to the streets well before the big quake hit Friday morning.

Moussa Shaban, 42, in the village of Garaj, said the earlier shocks had prompted his wife and six children to sleep outside, but his aging mother had refused.

She was killed when the main magnitude 6 quake hit.

"I told her to come out. I said, 'Don't stay inside tonight, it's dangerous.' But she said, 'No, the earthquake is over,' " he said, standing next to his shattered home.

Nearby, a group of women in long black robes wailed in mourning for Shaban's mother and a man who was also killed.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ordered emergency relief sent to the quake zone, the Islamic Republic News Agency said. It included dogs to search for survivors and two helicopters, state television said.

The United States, which has had no diplomatic ties with Iran since 1979, also offered humanitarian assistance.

"We obviously have our differences with the Iranian government, but we do care about the suffering of Iranian people," President Bush said.

In Geneva, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, using information from the Iranian Red Crescent, said rescue teams had been mobilized.

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