Over 400 dead from earth­quake in Iran-iraq bor­der area

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - WORLD -

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 19 miles (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, just as peo­ple were go­ing to bed.

The worst dam­age ap­peared to be in the Kur­dish town of Sar­pole-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-eza­hab 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. He said most were treated for mi­nor in­juries and re­leased, with fewer than 1,000 still hos­pi­tal­ized.

The num­ber of dead came from the pro­vin­cial foren­sic depart­ment based on death cer­tifi­cates is­sued. Some re­ports said au­thor­i­ties warned that unau­tho­rized buri­als with­out cer­ti­fi­ca­tion could mean the death toll was higher.

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

The dis­par­ity in the fa­tal­ity

fig­ures im­me­di­ately drew ques­tions from Ira­ni­ans, es­pe­cially be­cause so much of the town was new.

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.

Kokab Fard, a 49-year-old house­wife in Sar­pol-e-za­hab, said she could only flee emp­ty­handed when her apart­ment com­plex col­lapsed.

AP PHOTO

Rel­a­tives weep over the body of an earth­quake vic­tim in Sar­pol-e-za­hab, western Iran, Mon­day. Au­thor­i­ties re­ported a pow­er­ful 7.3 mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck the Iraq-iran bor­der re­gion on Mon­day and killed more than 400 peo­ple in both coun­tries.

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