Iran: Villages of the Dead

Wherever water wells up in the vast, arid reaches of northeastern Iran, improbable pockets of green blossom in the hostile landscape. People gather in isolated hamlets and towns to scratch out their precarious, remote existence. One such town was Kakhk, a cluster of blue-plastered, mud-brick buildings where 7,000 Iranians lived. At 2:17 on a sunny Saturday afternoon, Kakhk ceased to exist. In a few swift moments, it became the victim of Iran's worst earthquake since 1962, when 12,000 people perished. "I was taking a stroll in front of my house, when the ground started to tremble and everything became...