Iran-Iraq quake death toll hits 430
SARPOL- E- ZAHAB— Rescuers on Tuesday used backhoes and heavy equipment to dig through the debris of buildings toppled by a powerful earthquake on the border between Iran and Iraq, with weeping women crying out to God as aid workers found new bodies.
The grim work began in earnest again at dawn in the Kurdish town of Sarpol-e-Zahab in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah, which appears to be the hardest hit in the 7.3magnitude earthquake that struck on Sunday night.
Both rescuers and local residents alike stood atop the remains of apartment complexes, looking through the rubble.
They used heavy blankets to carry away corpses.
The hospital in Sarpol-e-Zahab was heavily damaged, and the Army set up field hospitals, although many of the injured were moved to other cities, including Tehran.
The quake also damaged an Army garrison and buildings in the border city and killed an unspecified number of soldiers, according to reports.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Kermanshah province on Tuesday to see the damage for himself and offer his support to those affected.
“This was a pain for all Irani- ans,” Rouhani said, according to a statement on the presidency’s website. “Representing the nation of Iran, I offer my condolences to the people of Kermanshah, and tell them that all of us are behind Kermanshah.”
Many of the heavily damaged complexes in Sarpol-e-Zahab were part of construction projects under former hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The newly homeless slept outside in the cold, huddled around makeshift fires for warmth.
The quake killed 430 people in Iran and injured 7,460, state media reported on Tuesday.
Most of the injuries were minor with fewer than 1,000 still hospitalized, Iran’s crisis management headquarters spokesperson Behnam Saeedi told state TV.
The official death toll came from provincial forensic authorities based on death certificates issued.
Some reports said unauthorized burials without certification could mean the death toll was actually higher.
The quake was centered about 31 kilometers outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the US Geological Survey, and struck 3.2 km below the surface, a somewhat shallow depth that can cause broader damage.
The quake caused Dubai’s skyscrapers to sway and could be felt 1,060 km away on the Mediterranean coast.
Seven deaths occurred in Iraq and 535 people were injured, all in the country’s northern, semiautonomous Kurdish region.
The disparity in casualty tolls immediately drew questions from Iranians, especially because so much of the town was new.—
A rescue worker searches for survivors under the debris with his sniffing dog after a powerful earthquake hit the city of Sarpol-e-Zahab, Iran, near the Iran-Iraq border late on Sunday.—