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Three Earthquakes Level Iranian Villages
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Earthquakes and aftershocks rattled western Iran one after another, flattening villages and sending frightened homeowners into the streets. By Friday morning 70 people were dead, 1,200 wounded, and thousands homeless.


Young Iranian girls lie on the ruins of their quake-devastated home in Baba Pashman village, 400km (248 miles) south west of Tehran March 31, 2006. A strong earthquake hit Iran on Friday, killing at least 70 people and devastating villages, a provincial official said. [Reuters]


The death toll would have been much higher, residents said, but police used loudspeakers to tell townspeople to sleep outside after a 4.7-magnitude quake struck Thursday evening.


Hours later, around 11 p.m., a 5.1-magnitude quake struck Boroujerd and Doroud, the Iranian Seismological Center said, followed by a 6.1-magnitude quake just before 5 a.m., according to the U.S. Geological Society. Aftershocks continued throughout the day.


A total of 70 bodies had been recovered from houses destroyed in Silakhor, a region north of Doroud, state-owned television reported.


The provincial head of the Unexpected Disaster Committee, Ali Barani, said no fewer than 200 villages were damaged, and some were flattened. The quakes' epicenters were 210 miles southwest of Tehran.


The quakes ¡ª at least 12 were recorded, one scientist said ¡ª caused panic, with people in Doroud running out of their homes. Many spent the night in the open.


"We are afraid to go back home. I spent the night with my family and guests in open space last night," Doroud resident Mahmoud Chaharmiri told the Associated Press by telephone.


Women who lost loved ones slapped their faces and beat their chests in grief, while those whose homes were destroyed searched for personal belongings amid the rubble.


As darkness fell Friday, people whose homes were still standing joined those who had lost theirs in sleeping outside, fearful that aftershocks might bring down the remaining buildings, many of which had large cracks in the walls.


Some planned to sleep in cars, while others gathered blankets and lit fires for warmth during the cold spring night. Others slept in tents from the Iranian Red Crescent.


(China Daily via AP April 1, 2006)


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