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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 February, 2005, 15:34 GMT
Iran earthquake death toll rises
Woman cries amid rubble in Dahoueieh
Some villages have been reduced to rubble
The death toll from an earthquake which struck south-eastern Iran on Tuesday has risen to at least 490, Iranian officials have said.

Emergency teams are continuing to search for survivors under tons of rubble in dozens of villages in the province of Kerman.

On Wednesday, two girls were pulled alive from debris more than 24 hours after the tremor.

The 6.4 magnitude quake has left thousands of people homeless.

Survivors have spent the past two nights outdoors in freezing conditions on snow-covered slopes, unable or too fearful to return home.

Villages flattened

Rescue workers continued searching through rubble, often with their bare hands, as blocked roads made it impossible for heavy equipment to reach some of the 50 villages affected by the quake.


About five villages have been completely destroyed, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari said.

The governor of Kerman province, Mohammad Ali Karimi, said at least 490 people are known to have died.

"These figures are not final and are expected to increase further," Mr Karimi was quoted as having told Iranian radio.

The Red Crescent Society has warned that up to half of the 1,000 inhabitants of the remote village of Houtkan might have died.

Found alive

In a cemetery near the town of Zarand, about 700km (440 miles) south-east of the capital, Tehran, gravediggers dug plots as bodies continued to arrive.

"What has happened? Why am I alive," a grief-stricken woman named Nahid cried over the graves of her mother and brother, Reuters reported.

But there was renewed hopes as rescuers pulled two young women from under rubble in Houtkan, more than 24 hours after the quake.

One of them, who emerged almost unscathed, said she had sheltered under the frame of a door as soon as she started feeling the tremor, Reuters reported.

The disaster has prompted international offers of aid, including from the United States, Iran's arch foe.

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