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Boro Iranians monitor quake in native land

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Aftershocks were being felt by the Iranian-American community in Queens this week in the wake of the massive earthquake that devastated the city of Bam in Iran the day after Christmas.

Watching news of the rescue effort via satellite from Radio Sedaya Iran and other news outlets, some Iranians living in Queens responded to the disaster in their homeland by organizing donation efforts as the death toll in the ancient city climbed past 20,000. Some government officials in the Persian Gulf nation estimated fatalities could reach 40,000.

At the Woodside Islamic Institute located at 55-11 Queens Blvd., which has a membership that includes many Iranian Americans, a call for donations to be sent to relief efforts in Iran went out immediately following news of the quake, which registered 6.7 on the Richter scale.

Administrators at the institute sent a letter to members that said providing relief to the earthquake victims “should be everyone’s priority.”

Most of the city, which was filled with mud houses and other mud structures, was demolished.

Iranians gathered at the institute Saturday to console one another and to watch a video tape of the destruction that leveled nearly 80 percent of the buildings in Bam and surrounding villages.

“We will be having more gatherings and will be asking for donations,” said Sayyed Reza Hejazi, director at the institute.

On Sunday, the earthquake was a talking point among customers at A&A Middle Eastern Foods at 102-30 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills.

“Everyone is talking about it,” said Abdul Karani, an Iranian and owner of the store. “I didn’t have any relatives killed, but some others have. Some have family there and have not heard from them yet. Some have been killed. Some are in the hospital. I’m sad. I’m angry.”

An Iranian customer in the store, Ardeshir Faiyaz, drew a map of Iran on a piece of paper, trying to explain how much of a loss it is for Iranians to see Bam destroyed.

“Bam is here,” Faiyaz said, pointing to the southeastern part of Iran on the hand-sketched map. “This is where the best dates come from. This is where 5,000 years of history and antiques are. I was there once when I was a boy. Everyone is very sad about this.”

Administrators at the Woodside Islamic Institute said those interested in sending donations to the relief effort in Iran can contact the following organizations:

Interests Section of Iran

202-965-4900

Mercy Corps

888-256-1900

Child Foundation

503-698-4084

Relief International

310-478-1200

Reach reporter Tom Nicholson by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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