- The Washington Times - Monday, June 24, 2002

ABDAREH, Iran All that remains of Assad Mohammed's childhood home is a mangled heap of broken wood, twisted tin and mud bricks.
"Look at this," said the builder, who rushed here from Tehran only to learn that his father, two sisters, a nephew, a niece and other relatives were crushed to death in their homes when an earthquake struck this farming village Saturday morning.
"I don't know whose house is whose. I don't whose belongings are whose belongings. My father. Oh, my father."
More than 200 people have been confirmed killed 30 in this village and thousands were injured and left homeless by the quake, which measured 6.2 on the Richter scale. Some residents say they believe the final death toll will be as high as 500.
Most of those who died were crushed under the weight of their mud-brick homes, which clustered tightly together in interlocking mazes break during even minor earthquakes.
"The mud-brick houses turn into dust," said Morteza Shahbodaghi, a Red Crescent relief worker in the area. "They are neither sturdy nor allow for easy rescue."
President Bush, who has identified Iran as part of an "axis of evil," said he was saddened by news of the earthquake and extended an offer of humanitarian aid to Iran.
"Human suffering knows no political boundaries," Mr. Bush said in a statement. "We stand ready to assist the people of Iran as needed and as desired."
But Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari stopped short of accepting the offer and instead said Tehran would accept humanitarian aid from U.S. nongovernmental organizations.
"We are ready to accept all aid from NGOs," he told Reuters news agency.
When the earthquake struck Abdareh at 7:28 a.m. Saturday, nearly all the village's men were already out of the house picking grapes from the nearby vineyards. Nearly all the 30 killed here were women, children or the elderly.
Fatima Karimkhani said she was just getting up when she heard rattling. She immediately ran for the front door of her tiny home and almost made it outside when the door fell on her. She was trapped, but slowly managed to claw her way out. "I am very lucky to be alive," she said.
Ali Ahmad Mohammadi, out in the vineyards, was thrown to the ground. He got up and was immediately felled by an even larger tremor lasting perhaps 20 seconds.
He thanked God yesterday that though his home was damaged, his family had escaped to safety. Five or six of his neighbors were killed.
The cities near the earthquake's epicenter in the mountains also suffered extensive property damage, but few fatalities.
In Avaj, a tree-lined mostly Turkic-speaking town of 4,000, roofs collapsed and many homes were damaged. When the quake hit, terrified residents ran screaming from their homes, women ignoring the Islamic Republic's rules requiring them to dress modestly and cover their heads. As a result of their quick response, only one person died.
Residents were angry, however, at what they considered a slow response to the quake by the government. Still waiting for food, medicine and tents, around 60 survivors threw stones at Mr. Mousavi-Lari's convoy when he visited yesterday, Reuters reported.


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