ORONO – With phone lines down in Iran after a devastating earthquake early Friday morning, there was no way Orono pharmacist Ali Aghamoosa could find out if his family or friends are OK.
“I’m still in shock,” said the native of Iran during a noontime interview on Friday. “All my siblings and extended family are in Iran and I haven’t been able to talk to them since I heard the news. I’m trying to find out if everything is OK.”
Water, phone and electricity lines were down all around the epicenter of the quake in the southeastern Iranian city of Bam. The earthquake registered 6.5 on the Richter scale and leveled more than half the city’s houses and a 2,000-year-old citadel that was the largest mud-brick structure in the world.
Aghamoosa was born in Tehran, Iran, and came to the United States in 1977 at age 19 to attend Texas Southern University in Houston, where he earned his degree in pharmacology. Luckily, many of Aghamoosa’s family members live in and around his hometown, which is located 610 miles northwest of Bam.
The last time Aghamoosa visited Iran was in 1999. He said that since he opened the Orono Pharmacy four years ago, he and his family have not made the trip.
“Since I came to Maine, I haven’t been able to go,” said the father of four. “Before, I went yearly.”
The pharmacist said Iran is located in an active seismic zone. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, earthquakes of low magnitude occur in Iran almost daily.
“It’s an area that is prone to earthquakes, so most people are aware of what they need to do,” Aghamoosa said.
An estimated 5,000 people died during the 5:30 a.m. quake in Bam and at least another 30,000 were injured, according to The Associated Press.
Hardly any buildings in Iran are built to withstand earthquakes, although the country sits on several major fault lines and temblors are frequent.
An example of this is the 7.3 to 7.7 magnitude earthquake on June 21, 1990, which killed 50,000 people and left another 400,000 homeless.
Aghamoosa said after the devastating quake of 1990, he worked to mobilize a relief effort.
“We collected a lot of medical supplies and items that would come in handy,” he said. “I’m trying to put something together [for Bam].”
Anyone who is interested in helping Aghamoosa can contact him at the Orono pharmacy.
Associated Press writer Ali Akbar Dareini contributed to this article.