Race to al­le­vi­ate suf­fer­ing in quake-hit Iran

The Australian - - WORLD - TEHRAN:

Tens of thou­sands of Ira­ni­ans spent a sec­ond night in the open air af­ter a 7.3-mag­ni­tude quake struck near the bor­der with Iraq, killing more than 400.

Peo­ple who fled their homes when the quake rocked the moun­tain­ous re­gion span­ning Iran’s west­ern prov­ince of Ker­man­shah and Iraqi Kur­dis­tan on Mon­day ( AEDT) braved chilly tem­per­a­tures as au­thor­i­ties strug­gled to get aid into the quake zone.

Iran de­clared yes­ter­day a na­tional day of mourn­ing as of­fi­cials out­lined the most press­ing pri­or­i­ties and de­scribed the lev­els of de­struc­tion in some parts as “to­tal”.

“Peo­ple’s im­me­di­ate needs are firstly tents, wa­ter and food,” said the head of Iran’s elite Revo­lu­tion­ary Guards, Ma­jor Gen­eral Mo­ham­mad Ali Ja­fari.

“Newly con­structed build­ings ... held up well, but the old houses built with earth were to­tally de­stroyed.”

The toll in Iran stood at 413 dead and 6700 in­jured, while across the bor­der in more sparsely pop­u­lated ar­eas of Iraq, the health min­istry said eight peo­ple had died and sev­eral hun­dred were in­jured.

For­eign me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions were not al­lowed to visit the scene of the dis­as­ter in Iran.

Of­fi­cials said they were set­ting up re­lief camps for the dis­placed and that 22,000 tents, 52,000 blan­kets and tonnes of food and wa­ter had been dis­trib­uted. The of­fi­cial IRNA news agency said 30 Red Cres­cent teams had been sent to the area.

Hun­dreds of am­bu­lances and dozens of army he­li­copters were re­ported to have joined the res­cue ef­fort af­ter supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei or­dered the govern­ment and armed forces to mo­bilise “all their means”.

Of­fi­cials said all the roads in Ker­man­shah prov­ince had been re­opened yes­ter­day, al­though the worst-af­fected town of Sar-e Pol-e Za­hab re­mained with­out elec­tric­ity, said state tele­vi­sion.

At least 280 peo­ple were killed in the town, home to 85,000 peo­ple. Build­ings stood dis­fig­ured, their for­mer fa­cades now rub­ble on crum­pled ve­hi­cles.

The tremor shook sev­eral west­ern Ira­nian cities, in­clud­ing Tabriz, and was also felt in south­east­ern Turkey. In the town of Di­yarbakir, res­i­dents were re­ported to have fled their homes.

Sev­eral vil­lages were to­tally de­stroyed in Iran’s Dala­hoo County, the Tas­nim news agency re­ported. Five his­tor­i­cal mon­u­ments in Ker­man­shah suf­fered mi­nor dam­age, but the UNESCO-listed Be­his­tun in­scrip­tion from the 7th cen­tury BC was not af­fected, the ISNA agency said.

Iraqi Kurd Nizar Ab­dul­lah, 34, sifted through the ru­ins of a two­s­torey home next door af­ter it crum­bled into con­crete de­bris.

“There were eight peo­ple in­side,” he said. Some fam­ily mem­bers man­aged to es­cape, but “neigh­bours and res­cue work­ers pulled out the mother and one of the chil­dren dead from the rub­ble”.

The quake, which struck at a rel­a­tively shal­low depth of 23km, was felt for about 20 sec­onds in Bagh­dad, and for longer in other prov­inces of Iraq.

It struck along a 1500km fault line be­tween the Ara­bian and Eurasian tec­tonic plates, which ex­tends through west­ern Iran and north­east­ern Iraq. The area sees fre­quent seis­mic ac­tiv­ity.

In 1990, a 7.4-mag­ni­tude quake in north­ern Iran killed 40,000 peo­ple, in­jured 300,000 and left half a mil­lion home­less, re­duc­ing dozens of towns and nearly 2000 vil­lages to rub­ble.

Thir­teen years later, a cat­a­strophic quake flat­tened swaths of the an­cient south­east­ern Ira­nian city of Bam, killing at least 31,000.

Iran has ex­pe­ri­enced at least two ma­jor quake dis­as­ters since, one in 2005 that killed more than 600 and an­other in 2012 that left 300 dead.

AFP, AP

Sur­vivors sit and pon­der what is left of their homes in Sar-e Pol-e Za­hab in west­ern Iran; be­low, lev­elled build­ings in Dar­bandikhan in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan

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