Survivors of the June 21 earthquake, many still in shock from the disaster that destroyed their homes in the Alborz Mountains, nervously settled into tents Friday set up by volunteer relief workers.
A United Press International reporter traveling along a mountain road from Tehran to the Caspian coast narrowly missed death when a huge boulder rolled down a slope toward the jeep in which she was riding. She later visited several camps at Manjil, Roudbar and Ganjeh.Corpses had been cleared from the rubble, and health workers were spraying disinfectant over what remained of the towns to prevent epidemics from breaking out.
Wednesday and Thursday the survivors attended memorial ceremonies for their dead, already buried in mass graves close to the rubble of the towns and villages.
At Ganjeh, a large village deep in the mountains, survivor Morteza Alipour said many people were dug up from under the rubble by survivors and relatives.
"We knew where they were," he said. "My father knew at the time of the quake which corner of the room his child had rolled to. This was how we looked for bodies.
"But what happened here was nothing compared to our village," Alipour said, adding there were villages in the mountains which relief workers knew very little about.
He said there were villages of "anywhere between 20 and 100 houses up and down these mountains. You will find that they have been swallowed by the slopes."
For two hours, Alipour led a reporter up a gravel pathway from Ganjeh to a place called Upper Ganjeh. Before the quake, it was a farming community of 100 to 150 residents. Now, nothing stirred. Some structures were left half standing, like centuries-old ruins.
"No one survived here. If they did, it is now too late," Alipour said. "A cousin and I walked up the mountain first thing last Friday morning (June 22). We came to see about our kin, to find this. Where could we start, without help?"
Many villages were connected only by gravel pathways on the mountain slopes, Alipour said.
"There are 850 villages in the Deylaman district alone."
He related stories of some women who went insane after the tragedy.
"We found three survivors under a collapsed home in Ganjeh Tuesday - a young couple and their 8-year-old daughter," he said. "When the mother regained consciousness and looked around, she started screaming and demanded we find her younger child.
"A beam had fallen near where she had left the infant (before the quake). Many people came to lift the beam but we could not do so," Alipour said. "The woman has since gone insane."
LDS Church will send aid
The First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has approved sending a shipment of tents and sleeping bags to assist in the relief of Iranian earthquake victims. The shipment of 550 family tents and 975 sleeping bags will be trucked from the Bishop's Central Storehouse Monday to El Cerrito, Calif. An Iranian relief group will then transport them to San Francisco where they will be included in an Air Force shipment of relief supplies. The Iranian Red Crescent Society will pick them up in Paris and handle the distribution in Iran.