Iran ends quake res­cue ops, hun­gry sur­vivors bat­tle cold

Hun­gry sur­vivors bat­tle cold • Res­cue op­er­a­tions end

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

ANKARA: Ira­nian of­fi­cials called off res­cue op­er­a­tions, say­ing there was lit­tle chance of find­ing more sur­vivors from the earth­quake that shook parts of west­ern Iran on Sun­day, killing at least 530 peo­ple, state me­dia said yes­ter­day. Sur­vivors, many left home­less by the 7.3 mag­ni­tude earth­quake that struck vil­lages and towns in a moun­tain­ous area bor­der­ing Iraq, bat­tled overnight tem­per­a­tures just above freez­ing and faced an­other bleak day yes­ter­day in need of food and wa­ter. The death toll of 530, re­ported by state news agency IRNA, made it Iran’s dead­li­est earth­quake in more than a decade. Thou­sands of peo­ple were in­jured and 30,000 homes dam­aged. Two whole vil­lages were de­stroyed.

The quake struck on the Iran-Iraq bor­der, caus­ing most of its dam­age in Iran de­spite an epi­cen­ter on the Iraq side of the fron­tier. Iraqi of­fi­cials said seven peo­ple were killed and 325 in­jured in Iraq, all in the north­ern Kur­dish prov­inces.

Iran’s Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani ar­rived in the morn­ing in the stricken area in Ker­man­shah prov­ince and promised that the gov­ern­ment would “use all its power to re­solve the prob­lems in the short­est time”.

Thou­sands of peo­ple hud­dled in makeshift camps while many oth­ers chose to spend a se­cond night in the open, de­spite low tem­per­a­tures, be­cause they feared more tremors af­ter some 193 af­ter­shocks, state tele­vi­sion said. 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 res­cue work­ers comb­ing through the rub­ble of dozens of vil­lages im­me­di­ately af­ter the quake. But by yes­ter­day morn­ing, Ira­nian of­fi­cials said there was no longer any like­li­hood of find­ing sur­vivors and called the res­cue off.

“The res­cue op­er­a­tions in Ker­man­shah prov­ince have ended,” Pir-Hos­sein Ko­li­vand, head of Iran’s Emer­gency Med­i­cal Ser­vices, said. Iran’s top author­ity, Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, of­fered his con­do­lences on Mon­day to the vic­tims and called on gov­ern­ment agen­cies to do all they could to help. The Ira­nian army, the elite Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards and forces of its af­fil­i­ated Basij mili­tia 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 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. “Peo­ple in some vil­lages are still in dire need of food, wa­ter and shel­ter,” said the gover­nor of Qasr-e Shirin county in Ker­man­shah prov­ince, Fara­marz Ak­bari. The mayor of Ezgeleh, a city in Ker­man­shah, said 80 per­cent of its build­ings had col­lapsed. Sur­vivors des­per­ately needed tents with el­derly peo­ple and ba­bies as young as oneyear-old sleep­ing in the cold for two straight nights.

In an interview with state tele­vi­sion, Nazar Barani asked peo­ple to send fuel, milk, wa­ter and food as emer­gency ser­vices were too slow and pro­vid­ing lim­ited pro­vi­sions. “Peo­ple are hun­gry and thirsty,” a lo­cal man told ISNA news agency. “There is no elec­tric­ity. Last night I cried when I saw chil­dren with no food or shel­ter.” 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 homes that the gov­ern­ment has built in re­cent years un­der an af­ford­able hous­ing pro­gram.

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 ru­ins. “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. — Reuters

Iran dead­li­est earth­quake in over a decade

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