Iran pledges swift aid af­ter ma­jor quake kills over 400

Oman Daily Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

KER­MAN­SHAH, IRAN: Thou­sands of home­less Ira­ni­ans sought shel­ter from bit­ter cold on Tues­day as Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani promised swift help af­ter a ma­jor earth­quake that killed more than 400 peo­ple.

The coun­try marked a day of mourn­ing for those killed in the 7.3-mag­ni­tude quake that struck a moun­tain­ous re­gion span­ning the Iran-Iraq bor­der late on Sun­day.

Thou­sands of homes were de­stroyed in the quake, which rocked a re­gion span­ning Iran’s western prov­ince of Ker­man­shah and neigh­bour­ing Iraqi Kur­dis­tan.

On Tues­day, res­i­dents who had fled their homes awoke from a sec­ond night in the cold out­doors as au­thor­i­ties strug­gled to get aid into the quake zone.

Rouhani vis­ited the city of Ker­man­shah and promised the gov­ern­ment would move swiftly to help those left home­less by the dis­as­ter.

“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.

Rouhani said all aid would be chan­nelled through the Hous­ing Foun­da­tion, one of the char­i­ta­ble trusts set up af­ter the Is­lamic revo­lu­tion of 1979 that are ma­jor play­ers in the Ira­nian econ­omy.

The head of the elite Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards, Ma­jor Gen­eral Mo­ham­mad Ali Ja­fari, said the im­me­di­ate need was for tents, wa­ter and food.

“Newly con­structed build­ings... held up well, but the old houses built with earth were to­tally de­stroyed,” he told state tele­vi­sion as he vis­ited the af­fected re­gion.

Around 12,000 Ira­nian homes were de­stroyed and an­other 15,000 dam­aged in the quake, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial es­ti­mates. Seven towns and nearly 2,000 vil­lages were dam­aged, au­thor­i­ties said, and sev­eral vil­lages were com­pletely wiped from the map.

The toll in Iran stood at 430 dead and 7,460 in­jured, while 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 put the toll at nine dead. On Tues­day, Iran marked a day of mourn­ing, with a black ban­ner adorn­ing the corner of images of the dis­as­ter broad­cast by state tele­vi­sion to the tune of “Sad Lisa” by Bri­tish singer Yusuf Is­lam, for­merly known as Cat Stevens.

The head­line of a state news­pa­per read “Iran cries with Ker­man­shah”, re­fer­ring to the Kur­dish-ma­jor­ity prov­ince.

“Search op­er­a­tions are reach­ing their end, with teams con­stantly mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion to know if there are still peo­ple to ex­tract from the rub­ble,” Behnam Saidi, the spokesman for a cri­sis unit set up to han­dle the re­sponse to the quake, told state tele­vi­sion. But more aid was still needed. “The most ur­gent need is to pro­vide so­lu­tions for heat­ing, hous­ing and food,” Pir Hos­sein Koo­li­vand, the head of na­tional res­cue ser­vices, told state tele­vi­sion.

“Today, we sent our am­bu­lances to vil­lages in ar­eas af­fected by the quake to help peo­ple res­cued yes­ter­day, in­clud­ing chang­ing their ban­dages,” he said.

He added that “psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port teams” had been sent to these ar­eas.

The au­thor­i­ties said wa­ter and elec­tric­ity had re­turned to most af­fected re­gions.

Rouhani on Tues­day vis­ited the town of Sar-e Pol-e Za­hab, worst hit by the quake.

At least 280 peo­ple were killed in the town, home to some 85,000 peo­ple, where crum­pled ve­hi­cles lay un­der the rub­ble of flat­tened build­ings


An Ira­nian girl looks through a sal­vaged mir­ror from a dam­aged build­ing in the town of Sar­pol-e Za­hab in the western Ker­man­shah prov­ince near the bor­der with Iraq, on Tues­day. —

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