Earth­quake kills 430

The Prince George Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - Nasser KARIMI, Amir VAHDAT

TEHRAN, Iran — Res­cuers dug with their bare hands Mon­day through the de­bris of build­ings felled by an earth­quake that killed more than 430 peo­ple in the bor­der re­gion of Iran and Iraq, with nearly all the ca­su­al­ties oc­cur­ring in an area re­built af­ter their ru­inous 1980s war.

The mag­ni­tude-7.3 earth­quake struck Sun­day at 9:48 p.m. Iran time, just as peo­ple were go­ing to bed. The worst dam­age ap­peared to be in the Kur­dish town of Sar­pol-e-Za­hab in the western Ira­nian prov­ince of Ker­man­shah, which sits in the Za­gros Moun­tains that di­vide the two coun­tries.

Res­i­dents fled with­out time to grab their pos­ses­sions as apart­ment com­plexes col­lapsed into rub­ble. Out­side walls of some build­ings were sheared off, power and wa­ter lines were sev­ered, and tele­phone ser­vice was dis­rupted. Res­i­dents dug fran­ti­cally through wrecked build­ings for sur­vivors as they wailed. Fire­fight­ers from Tehran joined other res­cuers in the des­per­ate search, us­ing dogs to in­spect the rub­ble.

The hos­pi­tal in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab was heav­ily dam­aged, and the army set up field hos­pi­tals, although many of the in­jured were moved to other cities, in­clud­ing Tehran.

The quake also dam­aged an army gar­ri­son and build­ings in the bor­der city and killed an un­spec­i­fied num­ber of sol­diers, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei im­me­di­ately dis­patched all gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary forces to aid those af­fected.

Many of the heav­ily dam­aged com­plexes in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab were part of con­struc­tion projects un­der for­mer hard-line Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad. The newly home­less slept out­side in cold, hud­dled around makeshift fires for warmth, wrapped in blan­kets – as were the dead.

The quake killed 430 peo­ple in Iran and in­jured 7,156, the state-run IRNA news agency re­ported Tues­day. Most of the in­juries were mi­nor with fewer than 1,000 still hos­pi­tal­ized, Iran’s cri­sis man­age­ment head­quar­ters spokesman Behnam Saeedi told state TV.

The of­fi­cial death toll came from pro­vin­cial foren­sic au­thor­i­ties based on death cer­tifi­cates is­sued. Some re­ports said unau­tho­rized buri­als with­out cer­ti­fi­ca­tion could mean the death toll was ac­tu­ally higher.

The quake was cen­tred about 31 kilo­me­tres out­side the east­ern Iraqi city of Hal­abja, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey, and struck 23.2 kilo­me­tres be­low the sur­face, a some­what shal­low depth that can cause broader dam­age. The quake caused Dubai’s sky­scrapers to sway and could be felt 1,060 kilo­me­tres away on the Mediter­ranean coast.

Seven deaths oc­curred in Iraq and 535 peo­ple were in­jured, all in the coun­try’s north­ern, semi­au­tonomous Kur­dish re­gion, ac­cord­ing to its In­te­rior Min­istry.

The dis­par­ity in ca­su­alty tolls im­me­di­ately drew ques­tions from Ira­ni­ans, es­pe­cially be­cause so much of the town was new.

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