Iran scrambles to aid victims of killer quake
Sar-e Pol-e Zahab, Iran - Thousands of Iranians prepared on Tuesday to spend a third night in the cold as authorities scrambled to help those made homeless by a major earthquake that killed more than 400.
As the country marked a day of mourning, President Hassan Rouhani promised swift help following the 7.3-magnitude quake that struck a mountainous region spanning the Iran-Iraq border on Sunday.
Volunteers also rushed to help after thousands of homes were destroyed in the quake which rocked a region extending across Iran’s western province of Kermanshah and neighbouring Iraqi Kurdistan.
But some victims said not enough was being done.
“We have been here for two days with nothing. We have no tents, no blankets,” said one young resident of Sar-e Pol-e Zahab, the city most affected by the disaster.
He accused ‘dishonest people’ from areas not affected by the quake of diverting food and basic necessities destined for the victims.
The quake killed at least 432 in Iran, all in Kermanshah province, and eight in Iraq.
On Tuesday afternoon, residents of Sar-e Pol-e Zahab helped police evacuate an elderly man from a home at risk of imminent collapse.
Several buildings and houses lay in complete ruins, while others stood disfigured. Some structures appeared unscathed.
Rescue workers with sniffer dogs combed the ruins for survivors after at least 280 people were killed in the town of some 85,000 people.
The town centre was clogged with traffic as people from the surrounding province rushed to help with rescue efforts.
Tents, some provided by the Red Crescent, dotted green spaces turned into camps for the displaced. But some did not have shelter from the cold.
“What we need is a tent and covers to be able to get through the night,” said 24 year old mother Shima Maryami Kiani.
Health Minister Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi was cited on Tuesday by the Tasnim news agency as recognising that aid ‘distribution was not assured properly’ and needed to be improved.
Rouhani landed by helicopter in the city of Kermanshah and promised the government would move swiftly to help those left homeless. “I want to assure those who are suffering that the government has begun to act with all means at its disposal and is scrambling to resolve this problem as quickly as possible,” he said.
As winter sets in, around 15,500 Iranian homes have been destroyed and another 15,000 damaged in the quake, according to official estimates. Seven towns and nearly 2,000 villages were damaged, authorities said, with some villages completely wiped from the map.
People huddle by a fire in an open area following a 7.3-magnitude earthquake, at Sar-e Pol-e Zahab in Iran’s Kermanshah province on Tuesday