More than 400 dead af­ter quake hits Iran-Iraq bor­der

The Province - - NEWS WORLD - NASSER KARIMI AND AMIR VAHDAT

TEHRAN, Iran — Res­cuers dug with their bare hands Mon­day through the de­bris of build­ings brought down by a pow­er­ful earth­quake that killed more than 400 peo­ple in the once-con­tested moun­tain­ous bor­der re­gion be­tween Iraq and Iran, with nearly all of the vic­tims in an area re­built since the end of the ru­inous 1980s war.

Sun­day night’s mag­ni­tude 7.3 earth­quake struck about 31 kilo­me­tres out­side the east­ern Iraqi city of Hal­abja, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent mea­sure­ments from the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey. It hit at 9:48 p.m. Iran time.

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 Iran and Iraq.

Res­i­dents fled into the streets as the quake struck, with­out time to grab their pos­ses­sions, as apart­ment com­plexes col­lapsed into rub­ble. Out­side walls of some com­plexes were sheared off by the quake, 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.

It 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 407 peo­ple in Iran and in­jured 7,156 oth­ers, Iran’s cri­sis man­age­ment head­quar­ters spokesman Behnam Saeedi told state TV. Most of the in­juries were mi­nor, he said, with fewer than 1,000 still hos­pi­tal­ized.

The semi-of­fi­cial Tas­nim news agency re­ported 445 dead and 7,370 in­jured. There was no im­me­di­ate ex­pla­na­tion of the dis­crep­ancy.

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

In Iraq, the earth­quake killed at least seven peo­ple and in­jured 535 oth­ers, all in the coun­try’s north­ern, semi-au­ton­o­mous Kur­dish re­gion, ac­cord­ing to its In­te­rior Min­istry.

The earth­quake struck 23.2 kilo­me­tres be­low the sur­face, a shal­low depth that can have broader dam­age. Mag­ni­tude 7 earth­quakes on their own are ca­pa­ble of wide­spread, heavy dam­age.

The quake caused Dubai’s sky­scrapers to sway and could be felt 1,060 kilo­me­tres away on the Mediter­ranean coast. Nearly 120 af­ter­shocks fol­lowed.

Univer­sity of Colorado ge­o­log­i­cal sci­en­tist Roger Bil­ham said earth­quakes in the Za­gros range, where there are more than 20 dif­fer­ent faults, have killed more than 100,000 peo­ple in the last 1,000 years.

Be­cause there are so many earth­quakes in the re­gion, proper con­struc­tion is crit­i­cal, but it “doesn’t trickle down to the vil­lages,” Bil­ham said.

— THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rel­a­tives weep over the body of an earth­quake vic­tim, in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab, western Iran, on Mon­day. Au­thor­i­ties re­ported that a pow­er­ful 7.3 mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck the re­gion with shocks felt as far west as the Mediter­ranean coast.

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