Search ends for survivors as quakes’ toll tops 250

As the death toll from powerful twin earthquakes in northwestern Iran rose Sunday to more than 250, with entire villages leveled, rescuers called off searches for survivors and turned their attention to caring for the 16,000 people left homeless.

At least 20 villages were totally destroyed in the quakes Saturday, which were followed by some 36 aftershocks, state television reported.

Ahmad Reza Shajiei, a senior government official in charge of rescue operations, said more than 5,000 tents have been set up to shelter the thousands of displaced.

“The walls were shaking and moving from side to side. It took about a minute before I could run out of the house,” said Morteza Javid, 47, of Ahar.

State television said at least 250 died. The semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted a local official who put the toll at 277. State TV said 44,000 food packages and thousands of blankets have been distributed in the stricken area.


Iran threat dwarfs all others, Israeli prime minister says

The threat from Iran dwarfs all other challenges the Jewish state faces, Israel’s prime minister declared Sunday, as high-level hints of a possible Israeli attack on Iran’s suspect nuclear program mounted.

One indirect indication came Sunday, when Israel’s military began sending mock text messages warning of incoming missiles, part of a nationwide experiment that is to continue through Thursday and reach hundreds of thousands of cellphone users.

Last week, defense officials confirmed that Israel’s top-tier missile defense system has been upgraded.

“All threats directed at the Israeli home front are dwarfed by another threat, different in its magnitude and substance, and so I have repeated and shall repeat: Iran must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday.

Skeptics say Israel is rattling its sabers as part of a diplomatic campaign but would hesitate to actually attack Iran, because of the real possibility that it could trigger an all-out war targeting Israel from several directions at once.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, but Israel, like much of the international community, thinks it could be a cover to build bombs.


Sikh temple hosts first Sunday service since attack

Hundreds of people who gathered at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee spoke of unity, strength and rebirth during the first Sunday service there since a gunman killed six people before fatally shooting himself.

The service capped a weekend of events meant to honor the victims and restore the temple as a place of worship. While there were still tears and red eyes, many participants said healing was under way.

Visitors removed their shoes and filed past portraits of the victims. In the main prayer room, they dropped dollar bills in front of a shrine where their holy book sits and bowed. Then they sat on the floor, their heads covered with scarves, and listened as a priest recited religious hymns.

Those at Sunday’s service included Sikhs from as far away as California and about 50 from Cleveland, who chartered a bus to make the eight-hour drive to support their community.

“It’s an emotional day, but it’s getting better,” said Justice Khalsa, 41, of Milwaukee, who visits the temple three or four days a week. “I’m smiling and laughing now, but once this group goes away and we’re back to our regular schedule, it will be haunting, I’m sure.”

— From news service reports