Tehran pledges swift aid af­ter mas­sive earth­quake kills 430

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD - Si­avosh Ghazi

THOU­SANDS of home­less Ira­ni­ans sought shel­ter from bit­ter cold yes­ter­day as Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani promised swift help af­ter a ma­jor earth­quake that killed over 400 peo­ple.

The coun­try marked a day of mourn­ing for those killed in the 7.3-mag­ni­tude quake that struck a moun­tain­ous re­gion span­ning the Iran-Iraq bor­der late on Sun­day.

Thou­sands of homes were de­stroyed in the quake, which rocked a re­gion span­ning Iran’s western prov­ince of Ker­man­shah and neigh­bour­ing Iraqi Kur­dis­tan.

Yes­ter­day, res­i­dents who had fled their homes awoke from a sec­ond night in the cold out­doors as au­thor­i­ties strug­gled to get aid into the quake zone.

Rouhani vis­ited the city of Ker­man­shah and promised the gov­ern­ment would move swiftly to help those left home­less by the dis­as­ter.

“I want to as­sure those who are suf­fer­ing that the gov­ern­ment has be­gun to act with all means at its dis­posal and is scram­bling to re­solve this prob­lem as quickly as pos­si­ble,” he said. Rouhani said all aid would be chan­nelled through the Hous­ing Foun­da­tion, one of the char­i­ta­ble trusts set up af­ter the Is­lamic revo­lu­tion of 1979 that are ma­jor play­ers in the Ira­nian econ­omy.

The head of the elite Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards, Ma­jor Gen­eral Mo­ham­mad Ali Ja­fari, said the im­me­di­ate need was for tents, wa­ter and food.

“Newly con­structed build­ings . . . held up well, but the old houses built with earth were to­tally de­stroyed,” he told state tele­vi­sion as he vis­ited the af­fected re­gion.

Around 12,000 Ira­nian homes were de­stroyed and an­other 15,000 dam­aged in the quake, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial es­ti­mates.

Seven towns and nearly 2,000 vil­lages were dam­aged, au­thor­i­ties have said, and sev­eral vil­lages were com­pletely wiped from the map.

The toll in Iran stood at 430 dead and 7,460 in­jured, while across the bor­der in more sparsely pop­u­lated ar­eas of Iraq, the Health Min­istry said eight peo­ple had died and hun­dreds in­jured. Iraq’s Red Cres­cent put the toll at nine dead.

Yes­ter­day, Iran marked a day of mourn­ing, with a black ban­ner adorn­ing the corner of images of the dis­as­ter broad­cast by state tele­vi­sion to the tune of Sad Lisa by Bri­tish singer Yusuf Is­lam, for­merly known as Cat Stevens.

The head­line of a state news­pa­per read Iran cries with Ker- man­shah, re­fer­ring to the Kur­dish-ma­jor­ity prov­ince.

“Search op­er­a­tions are reach­ing their end, with teams con­stantly mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion to know if there are still peo­ple to ex­tract from the rub­ble,” Behnam Saidi, the spokesman for a cri­sis unit set up to han­dle the re­sponse to the quake, told state tele­vi­sion.

But more aid was still needed. “The most ur­gent need is to pro­vide so­lu­tions for heat­ing, hous­ing and food,” Pir Hos­sein Koo­li­vand, the head of na­tional res­cue ser­vices, told state tele­vi­sion. “Today, we sent our am­bu­lances to vil­lages in ar­eas af­fect- ed by the quake to help peo­ple res­cued yes­ter­day, in­clud­ing chang­ing their ban­dages.”

He added that “psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port teams” had been sent to these ar­eas.

The au­thor­i­ties said wa­ter and elec­tric­ity had re­turned to most af­fected re­gions.

Rouhani yes­ter­day vis­ited the town of Sar-e Pol-e Za­hab, worst hit by the quake.

At least 280 peo­ple were killed in the town, home to some 85,000 peo­ple, where crum­pled ve­hi­cles lay un­der the rub­ble of flat­tened build­ings.

On Mon­day, Ira­nian 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”.

By late Mon­day, of­fi­cials said all the roads in Ker­man­shah prov­ince had been re­opened.

Sun­day’s quake struck along a 1,500-kilo­me­tre fault line be­tween the Ara­bian and Eurasian tec­tonic plates, which ex­tends through western Iran and north­east­ern Iraq. The area sees fre­quent seis­mic ac­tiv­ity.

ATTA KENARE/AFP

Mem­bers of the Ira­nian civil de­fence hand out bot­tles of wa­ter to sur­vivors and res­i­dents in the town of Sar­pol-e Za­hab, in Iran’s western Ker­man­shah prov­ince, yes­ter­day.

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