Left out in the cold
Thousands of Iranians homeless in aftermath of quake that has claimed over 500 lives.
TEHERAN: Tens of thousands of Iranians spent a second night in the open air after a 7.3-magnitude quake struck near the border with Iraq, killing more than 500.
People who had fled their homes when the quake rocked the mountainous region spanning Iran’s western province of Kermanshah and Iraqi Kurdistan on Sunday evening, braved chilly temperatures as authorities struggled to get aid into the quake zone.
Iran has declared yesterday a national day of mourning as officials outlined the most pressing priorities and described the levels of destruction in some parts as “total”.
“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.
The quake killed 530 people and injured 7,460, the state-run IRNA news agency reported yesterday.
Most of the injuries were minor with fewer than 1,000 still hospitalised, Iran’s crisis management headquarters spokesman Behnam Saeedi told state TV.
AFP, like other foreign media organisations, has not been allowed to visit the scene of the disaster.
Officials said they were setting up relief camps for the displaced and that 22,000 tents, 52,000 blankets and tonnes of food and water had been distributed.
IRNA said 30 Red Crescent teams had been sent to the area.
Hundreds of ambulances and dozens of army helicopters were reported to have joined the rescue effort after Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the government and armed forces to mobilise “all their means”.
By late Monday, officials said all the roads in Kermanshah province had been re-opened, although the worst-affected town of Sar-e Pol-e Zahab remained without electricity, said state television.
At least 280 people were killed in the town, home to some 85,000 people. Buildings stood disfigured, their former facades now rubble on crumpled vehicles.
The tremor shook several western Iranian cities including Tabriz and was also felt in southeastern Turkey, an AFP correspondent said. In the town of Diyarbakir, residents were reported to have fled their homes.
Several villages were totally destroyed in Iran’s Dalahoo County, the Tasnim news agency reported.
Five historical monuments in Kermanshah suffered minor damage, but the Unesco-listed Behistun inscription from the seventh century BC was not affected, the ISNA agency said.
Nizar Abdullah spent Sunday night with neighbours sifting through the ruins of a two-storey home.
“There were eight people inside,” the 34-year-old Iraqi Kurd said.
Some family members escaped, but “neighbours and rescuers pulled out the mother and one of the children dead from the rubble”.
Newly constructed buildings ... held up well, but the old houses built with earth were totally destroyed.
Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari