Iran ends quake res­cue op­er­a­tions as hun­gry sur­vivors bat­tle the cold

Financial Chronicle - - AROUND THE GLOBE - PARISA HAFEZI

RES­CUE op­er­a­tions have ended in ar­eas of Iran hit by a pow­er­ful week­end earth­quake that killed at least 450 peo­ple and in­jured thou­sands, state tele­vi­sion re­ported on Tues­day, as many sur­vivors, in need of food and wa­ter, bat­tled the cold.

Sun­day’s 7.3-mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck vil­lages and towns in the moun­tain­ous area of Ker­man­shah prov­ince that bor­ders Iraq while many peo­ple were at home asleep. At least 14 prov­inces in Iran were af­fected.

Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani ar­rived in the morn­ing in the earth­quake-stricken area in Ker­man­shah and promised that the gov­ern­ment “will use all its power to re­solve the prob­lems in the short­est time”.

State tele­vi­sion said thou­sands were hud­dling in makeshift camps while many oth­ers spent a sec­ond night in the open for fear of more tremors af­ter some 193 af­ter­shocks.

A home­less young woman in Sar­pol-e Za­hab, one of the hard­est-hit towns, told state TV that her fam­ily was ex­posed to the night cold be­cause of lack of tents.

“We need help. We need ev­ery­thing. The au­thor­i­ties should speed up their help,” she said.

Tele­vi­sion showed footage of res­cue work­ers fran­ti­cally comb­ing through the rub­ble of dozens of vil­lages im­me­di­ately af­ter the quake. But Ira­nian of­fi­cials said the chances of find­ing any more sur­vivors were ex­tremely low.

Iran’s top au­thor­ity, Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, of­fered his con­do­lences on Mon­day and called on gov­ern­ment agen­cies to do all they could to help.

Ira­nian po­lice, the elite Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards and its af­fil­i­ated Basij mili­tia forces were dis­patched to af­fected ar­eas on Sun­day night.

BIT­TER COLD

Hos­pi­tals in nearby prov­inces took in many of the in­jured, state tele­vi­sion said, air­ing footage of sur­vivors wait­ing to be treated. Hun­dreds of crit­i­cally in­jured peo­ple were dis­patched to hos­pi­tals in Tehran.

Iran’s Red Cres­cent said emer­gency shel­ter had been pro­vided for thou­sands of home­less peo­ple, but a lack of wa­ter and elec­tric­ity as well as blocked roads in some ar­eas hin­dered aid sup­ply ef­forts.

Lo­cal au­thor­i­ties said traf­fic chaos on roads, caused by peo­ple from nearby prov­inces who were rush­ing to help, fur­ther ham­pered the flow of aid.

“Peo­ple in some vil­lages are still in dire need of food, wa­ter and shel­ter,” gov­er­nor of Qasr-e Shirin Fara­marz Ak­bari told state tele­vi­sion.

More than 30,000 houses in the area were dam­aged and at least two vil­lages were com­pletely de­stroyed, Ira­nian au­thor­i­ties said.

Houses in Ira­nian vil­lages are of­ten made of con­crete blocks or mud­brick that can crum­ble and col­lapse in a strong quake. Some peo­ple are an­gry that among the col­lapsed build­ings were houses that the gov­ern­ment has built in re­cent years un­der its af­ford­able hous­ing pro­gramme.

Pho­to­graphs posted on Ira­nian news web­sites showed res­cue work­ers dig­ging peo­ple out of col­lapsed build­ings, cars smashed be­neath rub­ble and res­cue dogs try­ing to find signs of life un­der the twisted re­mains of col­lapsed build­ings.

“More peo­ple will die be­cause of cold. My fam­ily lives in a vil­lage near Sar­pol-e Za­hab. I can­not even go there. I don’t know whether they are dead or alive,” Ro­jan Meshkat, 38, in the Kur­dish city of Sanan­daj told Reuters by tele­phone.

Iran is criss­crossed by ma­jor fault lines and has suf­fered sev­eral dev­as­tat­ing earth­quakes in re­cent years, in­clud­ing a 6.6 mag­ni­tude quake in 2003 that re­duced the his­toric south­east­ern city of Bam to dust and killed some 31,000 peo­ple.

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