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Italy, Russia aid Iran quake victims

Italy, Russia aid Iran quake victims

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TEHRAN, Iran - Italy and Russia sent planeloads of tents, blankets and other supplies Saturday to help 21,000 Iranian families left homeless by three strong earthquakes that hit in quick succession, killing 70 people.

But Iran's government remained silent on whether it would accept an American offer of aid amid heightened tensions over Iran's nuclear program.

Iranian authorities were rushing temporary shelter to thousands of victims in towns and villages in western Iran, where residents were sleeping outside in the chilly spring night, fearful of returning even to homes that survived the quakes late Thursday and Friday.

About 21,000 families were homeless in 330 villages that were damaged or flatted by the quakes, said the provincial head of the Unexpected Disaster Committee, Ali Barani, as quoted by the state news agency IRNA.

But Iranian authorities signaled that they needed only limited outside help - in contrast to their response to a more devastating 2003 earthquake that hit the southeastern city of Bam, killing 26,000 people.

After that disaster, Iran accepted considerable international aid, including help from the United States.

Interior Ministry spokes-man Mojtaba Mirabdollahi told The Associated Press late Saturday that "all the survivors have received adequate protection, and operations providing temporary accommodation is now over."

The quake did not destroy roads, making it easier for officials to get aid to the damaged communities near the epicenters, 210 miles southwest of Tehran, Mirabdollahi said.

The immediate challenge was to continue providing sufficient food and drinking water to the survivors.

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