Hunt for sur­vivors af­ter quake kills 415 near Iran-Iraq bor­der

Amir sends con­do­lences to Ira­nian, Iraqi lead­ers

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

TEHRAN: Teams of Ira­nian res­cuers dug through rub­ble in a hunt for sur­vivors yes­ter­day af­ter a ma­jor earth­quake struck the Iran-Iraq bor­der, killing at least 415 peo­ple and in­jur­ing thou­sands. The 7.3mag­ni­tude quake rocked a bor­der area 30 km south­west of Hal­abja in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan at around 9:20 pm (1820 GMT) on Sun­day, the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said. Many peo­ple would have been at home when the quake hit in Iran’s western prov­ince of Ker­man­shah, where au­thor­i­ties said it killed at least 407 peo­ple and in­jured 6,700. Across the bor­der in more sparsely pop­u­lated ar­eas of Iraq, the health min­istry said eight peo­ple had died and sev­eral hun­dred were in­jured. Iraq’s Red Cres­cent re­ported nine dead and more than 400 in­jured.

HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent a ca­ble of con­do­lences to Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani on the deaths in­flicted by the earth­quake. HH the Amir ap­pealed to His Almighty to be­stow great mercy upon the souls of the vic­tims and wished the in­jured quick re­cov­ery. Sheikh Sabah also sent con­do­lence ca­bles to Iraqi Pres­i­dent Fuad Ma­sum and Prime Min­is­ter Haidar Al-Abadi over the vic­tims of the quake. HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf AlAh­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Ha­mad Al-Sabah sent sim­i­lar ca­bles to Rouhani, Ma­sum and Abadi.

As dusk ap­proached yes­ter­day, tens of thou­sands of Ira­ni­ans were forced to sleep out­side in the cold for a sec­ond night as au­thor­i­ties scram­bled to pro­vide them with aid. Some had spent Sun­day night out­doors af­ter flee­ing their homes in the moun­tain­ous cross-bor­der re­gion, hud­dling around fires at dawn as au­thor­i­ties sent in help. “Peo­ple’s im­me­di­ate needs are firstly tents, wa­ter and food,” said the head of Iran’s elite Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards, Ma­jor Gen­eral Mo­ham­mad Ali Ja­fari. “Newly con­structed build­ings... held up well, but the old houses built with earth were to­tally de­stroyed,” he told state tele­vi­sion dur­ing a visit to the af­fected re­gion.

Hun­dreds of am­bu­lances and dozens of army he­li­copters re­port­edly joined the res­cue ef­fort af­ter Ira­nian supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei or­dered the gov­ern­ment and armed forces to mo­bi­lize “all their means”. For­eign me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions had not re­ceived au­tho­riza­tion to visit the scene of the dis­as­ter yes­ter­day. Of­fi­cials said they were set­ting up re­lief camps for the dis­placed. Iran’s emer­gency ser­vices chief Pir Hos­sein Koo­li­vand said land­slides had cut off roads to af­fected vil­lages, im­ped­ing the ac­cess of res­cue work­ers. But by late af­ter­noon, of­fi­cials said all the roads in Ker­man­shah prov­ince had been re-opened, al­though the worstaf­fected town of Sar­pol-e-Za­hab re­mained with­out elec­tric­ity, said state tele­vi­sion.

Of­fi­cials said 22,000 tents, 52,000 blan­kets and tons of food and wa­ter had been dis­trib­uted. The of­fi­cial IRNA news agency said 30 Red Cres­cent teams had been sent to the quake zone. Af­ter ini­tially pin­ning the quake’s epi­cen­ter inside Iraq, the USGS then placed it across the bor­der in Iran yes­ter­day morn­ing. Iran’s Sar­pol-e-Za­hab, home to some 85,000 peo­ple close to the bor­der, was the worst hit with at least 236 dead. At dawn, build­ings in the town stood dis­fig­ured, their for­mer fa­cades now rub­ble on crum­pled ve­hi­cles.

In an open space away from wrecked hous­ing blocks, men and women, some wrapped in blan­kets, hud­dled around a camp­fire. Ira­nian me­dia re­ported that a woman and her baby were pulled alive from the rub­ble. The towns of Es­lam­abad and Qasr-e-Shirin were also af­fected, while the tre­mor shook sev­eral western Ira­nian ci­ties in­clud­ing Tabriz. Some 259,000 peo­ple live in the re­gion, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent cen­sus.

State tele­vi­sion showed tents, blan­kets and food be­ing dis­trib­uted in ar­eas struck by the tem­blor. In neigh­bor­ing Dala­hoo county, sev­eral vil­lages were to­tally de­stroyed, an of­fi­cial told Tas­nim agency. In Iraq, the health min­istry said the quake had killed seven peo­ple in the north­ern prov­ince of Su­laimaniyah and one in Diyala prov­ince to its south. More than 500 peo­ple were in­jured in both prov­inces and the nearby prov­ince of Kirkuk.

Footage posted on Twit­ter showed pan­icked peo­ple flee­ing a build­ing in Su­laimaniyah as win­dows shat­tered at the mo­ment the quake struck. Images from the nearby town of Dar­bandikhan showed walls and con­crete struc­tures that had col­lapsed. Nizar Ab­dul­lah spent the night with neigh­bors sift­ing through the ru­ins of a two-storey home next door af­ter it crum­bled into con­crete de­bris. “There were eight peo­ple inside,” the 34-year-old Iraqi Kurd said. Some fam­ily mem­bers man­aged to escape, but “neigh­bors and res­cue work­ers pulled out the mother and one of the chil­dren dead from the rub­ble”.

The quake, which struck at a rel­a­tively shal­low depth of 23 km, was felt for about 20 sec­onds in Bagh­dad, and for longer in other prov­inces of Iraq, AFP jour­nal­ists said. Iraqi health au­thor­i­ties said they treated dozens of peo­ple in the af­ter­math, mostly for shock. It was also felt in south­east­ern Tur­key, an AFP cor­re­spon­dent said. In the town of Di­yarbakir, res­i­dents were re­ported to have fled their homes. Bri­tain, France, Ger­many, Rus­sia and Syria of­fered their con­do­lences, while Pope Fran­cis called the quake a “tragedy” and ex­pressed his “prayer­ful sol­i­dar­ity” with vic­tims. The quake struck along a 1,500-km fault line be­tween the Ara­bian and Eurasian tec­tonic plates, which ex­tends through western Iran and north­east­ern Iraq. The area sees fre­quent seis­mic ac­tiv­ity.

In 1990, a 7.4-mag­ni­tude quake in north­ern Iran killed 40,000 peo­ple, in­jured 300,000 and left half a mil­lion home­less, re­duc­ing dozens of towns and nearly 2,000 vil­lages to rub­ble in just sec­onds. Thir­teen years later, a cat­a­strophic quake flat­tened swathes of the an­cient south­east­ern Ira­nian city of Bam, killing at least 31,000. Iran has ex­pe­ri­enced at least two ma­jor quake dis­as­ters since, one in 2005 that killed more than 600 and an­other in 2012 that left some 300 dead. — Agen­cies

— AP

A woman mourns as she holds the body of her daugh­ter who died in an earth­quake in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab in western Iran yes­ter­day.

Sur­vivors sit in front of build­ings dam­aged by the earth­quake in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab yes­ter­day. — AP

Ira­ni­ans mourn over the body of a vic­tim in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab yes­ter­day. — AFP

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