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‘I Am Alive’: Survivors of Iran Earthquake Mourn as Government Scrambles to Help

KUIK-E HASAN, Iran — In Kuik-e Hasan, a village of 800 people in the foothills of the Zagros mountains, Moadel Yari, 35, stood biting his lip as he recited the names of his lost relatives: “Amin, Hajar, Toba, Hajin, Abdellah, Boshra, Ozve, Somron.”

Iranians living near the border with Iraq are accustomed to earthquakes. They live in a region traversed by fault lines, and the destruction that comes when the ground shakes is not something new. And still, no one in this region was ready for the heavy destruction and loss of life that occurred when the ground shook on Sunday night.


A banner commemorating Cyrus Piri, 48, who was killed in the earthquake on Sunday night. Credit Thomas Erdbrink/The New York Times

There are more than 530 dead, a huge loss in itself, but coming to terms with so much death — and the damage to so many structures, in a region of small villages and towns, all at the same time — was that much harder. This earthquake in northwestern Iran was deadlier than the one that devastated Mexico City in September. Tremors were felt as far away as Turkey, Israel, Lebanon and Pakistan.

A lone Shiite cleric, wearing a backpack, sandals and his traditional turban, wandered through the flattened village of Kuik-e Hasan on Tuesday. The cleric, Asgar Zarei, had come from the holy city of Qum with other volunteers to help out, but found himself lost in the destruction. “I’m trying to talk to people about God, give them peace of mind — that is all I can do,” he said. “And pray. One can always pray.”

For the Iranian government, which is in a constant struggle to demonstrate that it can, and will, care for its citizens at times of crisis, the earthquake was a test of resources and capabilities. Citizens around Iran watched riveting news feeds on television and social media as survivors used backhoes and their hands to dig through debris in the search for survivors. But for the people in this region the struggle was more elemental — many are living in tents, huddled against the biting cold.

Source: NYT > World

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