Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Volunteers Rush to Help Iranian Earthquake Victims

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Volunteers Rush to Help Iranian Earthquake Victims

Article excerpt

Convoys of buses, trucks and pickups rushed volunteers over narrow dirt roads Sunday to the mountains of northeastern Iran where the death toll from an earthquake Saturday reached 2,400 Sunday and was still climbing.

At least 6,000 people were injured in the quake, with a magnitude 7.1, that struck Saturday near the town of Qaen, 70 miles west of the Afghan border.

About 130 aftershocks shook what was left standing, forcing tens of thousands of people to camp amid the rubble in the streets of stricken villages. Forty-thousand people were left homeless. Military aircraft flew food, clothes and medicine to the area, and volunteers who arrived in convoys dug through the rubble with bare hands to look for bodies. In most villages, streets had disappeared into rows of rubble. Survivors beat their chests and wailed in anguish. Others washed the bodies of their loved ones and buried them in mass graves. Tens of thousands of villagers camped in the streets, fearing the effects of the aftershocks. Some had magnitudes as large as 5.5. Most of the damage was in the 60-mile stretch between Birjand and Qaen, a region dotted by poor villages and mud huts. In one of the villages, an elementary school collapsed, killing 110 girls and burying their bodies under slabs of concrete and steel. The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency said at least 2,000 people died in villages around Qaen, 394 in Birjand and two in Khavaf. The news agency also said damage occurred in neighboring Afghanistan. In the Afghan capital of Kabul, international aid workers said at least four teams had set out to assess the damage in western Afghanistan near the Iranian border. The workers said they knew of five fatalities in Afghanistan. Iranian officials appealed for international aid. From Tokyo, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged other countries "to respond promptly and with generosity." France sent a cargo plane carrying 39 tons of blankets, tents, clothes and food Sunday. Switzerland sent a rescue team with trained dogs to help search for survivors, although Iran turned down an offer of a larger contingent. The Iranian Red Crescent sent 9,000 tents, more than 18,000 blankets and canned food, rice and dates. …

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