The August 31, 1968, Khorasan Earthquake

The August 31, 1968, Khorasan Earthquake

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The Khorasan earthquake of August 31-September 1, 1968, had an epicenter in Dasht-e-Biaz, a small village south of Gonabad, Khorasan Province. The death toll from the quake, which occurred in the mid-afternoon, approximated 15,000, with most of the casualties in Kakhk, 20 km south of Gonabad (population then approximately 5000).

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Four Peace Corps Volunteers assisted with the relief efforts.  They have agreed to write their stories and we are proud to publish them here.

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Cris Klein tells how she bused and hitch-hiked east to Mashhad and south past Gonabad to Khezri, a village totally destroyed by the earthquake and a focal point for medical and relief efforts.  That began her year of living in a tent helping the survivors.  Read her story by clicking here.

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Tom Nelson arrived at his site of Gonabad about four days after the earthquake struck. Gonabad itself was barely affected; some cracks in buildings, but no casualties. The area about 20 km south of Gonabad, however, was devastated, but in a patchwork of collapsed buildings; some villages were completely leveled, while others were not affected substantially. Most of the casualties were in Kakhk because it was near the mountains and thus cooler in the summer. Folks from Gonabad and surroundings would go there to cool off. You can read Tom’s story by clicking here.

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John Holehan’s story begins “A lot of people were expecting the BBC when we first arrived in Gonabad. At least one grave-looking local official appeared visibly disappointed when I informed him that I was with the Khorasan Engineering Office, not the BBC.”  As a member of that office, John and his colleagues delivered relief supplies and were tasked with rebuilding Khahk, one of the worst hit villages.  His story includes a visit to the village by the Shah.  You can read John’s story by clicking here.

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Bob Greenberg arrived in the village of Dasht-e Bayaz, a few kilometers above Khezri which was on the main highway to Gonabad. Dasht-e Bayaz had been a prosperous village known for abundant fruit and saffron. Because the quake had struck during the early afternoon, many people had been indoors as it hit and were buried under the rubble. Half the population was killed and now the remainder were living in tents and being fed by relief organizations. There were still aftershocks and one could hear terrorized villagers wailing from fear and sadness as the earth rumbled.  You  can read Bob’s story by clicking here.

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Jim Durfey, an architect, helped design a new masjed for Khahk.  That story was published in a 1970  Peace Corps newsletter.  We have scanned that article and you can read it by clicking here.

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Tagi Sagafi-nejad sent his remembrances of the earthquake.  “ Reading the accounts of the former PCVs who had witnessed first-hand the August 1968 tragedy in Khorasan brought tears to my eyes. You see, my mother, uncle, his 2 children and over 20 relatives were killed in that quake, and the entire village of Bainabaj – my birth place – was flattened. ”  You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

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KAKHK PHOTOS taken by Peace Corps Volunteers Roger Cavanna and Jim Durfey  following the earthquake. Click here.

 Here are a few photos.  There are additional photos that go with each article.