Iran quake levels villages, but many people escape
BABA PASHMAN, Iran, Apr 1 (Reuters) All that remained of Parviz Lashani's two-storey home was the facade. Yet it was still the only structure in his village that even vaguely resembled a building after yesterday's earthquake in Iran.
''I am happy that I am at least alive, but look at my life, what have I got left,'' said 35-year-old Lashani, who survived with his wife and two children.
The rest of his village of Baba Pashman, near the epicentre of the quake in the western province of Lorestan, had been turned into heaps of mud and masonry. Hardly a wall was intact.
The quake measured 6.0 on the Richter scale.
Iran is crisscrossed with seismic fault lines, and in the past earthquakes causing such devastation have often killed hundreds or even thousands.
Some 31,000 people died in 2003 when an earthquake struck Bam, 1,000 km southeast of Tehran.
But this time, Lashani, his family and thousands of others had a lucky escape.
Hours before the main quake, weaker tremors had frightened many residents out of their homes to spend a cold night under the stars.
''We were outside, of course, because we were so scared. We were lucky that we did not go back in,'' said Lashani.
A provincial official said the overall death toll was 70 by yesterday evening and wasn't expected to rise much further.
Lashani's village housed about 500 or 600 people, and residents said only two had died.
PULLED OUT It might have been three, if 80-year-old Mohammad Mirza Mousivand hadn't got up to carry out his ablutions in the outside bathroom before early morning prayers, moments before the big jolt.
He had stayed in his home even after the earlier tremors.
As it was, his grandchildren had to pull him out of the rubble of the small outhouse, nursing a broken arm.
But that rescue operation would have been impossible if he had been buried under his ruined home, said his grandson, 21-year-old Farhad Mousivand. ''I took my grandfather to the hospital this morning,'' he said.
Not everyone escaped unscathed, however.
In the village of Garaj, 42-year-old Moussa Shaban spent the night outside with his wife and six children, but his aging mother refused to leave her house.
''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.
And many were wondering how they could rebuild their lives after losing all their possessions under the masonry.
''I am happy because my family is alive, but I don't know what to do (now),'' said Abdollah Papi, 35, staring at his collapsed family home in the village of Araban.
REUTERS CS RK0836