Tragedy leaves trail of death and de­struc­tion


DAR­BANDIKHAN: Nizar Ab­dul­lah spent the night sift­ing through the ru­ins of the two-story house next door in the moun­tain­ous town of Dar­bandikhan in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan af­ter a killer quake hit the re­gion.

“There were eight peo­ple in­side,” Ab­dul­lah, an Iraqi Kurd, said on Mon­day, out­side the pile of con­crete de­bris where the house once stood.

Some fam­ily mem­bers man­aged to es­cape, but “neigh­bors and res­cue work­ers pulled out the mother and one of the chil­dren dead from the rub­ble,” said the 34-year-old.

The 7.3-mag­ni­tude quake hit on the Iraq-Iran bor­der area on Sun­day night, killing hun­dreds of peo­ple and in­jur­ing thou­sands of oth­ers.

The quake hit a bor­der area 30 km south­west of Hal­abja in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan at around 9:20 p.m. (18:20 GMT), the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said.

Most peo­ple were at home when the quake struck.

“All at once the elec­tric­ity went out and I felt a strong tremor,” said Lo­q­man Hus­sein.

“I im­me­di­ately ran out of the house with my fam­ily,” he added.

Akram Wali, 50, said many fam­i­lies in Dar­bandikhan sought shel­ter with rel­a­tives out­side of the town.

They fled as au­thor­i­ties in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan called on the pop­u­la­tion in the south­ern area of the town to leave their homes, fear­ing that the Dar­bandikhan dam would burst.

The dam, which spans the Diyala River, is lo­cated in Su­laimaniyah prov­ince, where seven peo­ple were killed, in­clud­ing four in Dar­bandikhan. One per­son died in Diyala prov­ince.

Au­thor­i­ties in the Dar­bandikhan re­gion, home to 40,000 peo­ple, say the dam has with­stood the fury of the quake and did not suf­fer any ma­jor cracks.

Taha Mo­hammed, 65, has not heeded the call to leave Dar­bandikhan, even if the quake to­tally de­stroyed his house.

“We ran out and no one was in­jured,” said the man dressed in the tra­di­tional baggy pants of Iraqi Kurds, count­ing his bless­ings de­spite the tragedy.

Iraqi Health Min­istry spokesman Seif Al-Nadr said that the quake in­jured 321 peo­ple in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan, 170 oth­ers in Diyala prov­ince and 44 in the dis­puted north­ern prov­ince of Kirkuk.

Most of them were treated for shock, he said in a state­ment.

“The Iraqi gov­ern­ment must help the vic­tims,” said Yassin Qassem, whose house was badly dam­aged by the quake.

“We are Kurds but also Iraqis,” he added.

Sun­day’s quake was also felt in south­east­ern Turkey. Ankara has sent hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance to Iraq, in­clud­ing tents and blan­kets, as well as a med­i­cal team, a Turk­ish gov­ern­ment spokesman said.

The worst dam­age ap­peared to be in the Kur­dish town of Sar­pol-e-Za­hab in the western Ira­nian prov­ince of Ker­man­shah, which sits in the Za­gros Moun­tains that di­vide Iran and Iraq.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei im­me­di­ately dis­patched all gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary forces to aid those af­fected.

Many of the heav­ily dam­aged com­plexes in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab were part of con­struc­tion projects un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad. The newly home­less slept out­side in cold, hud­dled around makeshift fires for warmth, wrapped in blan­kets — as were the dead.

The quake caused Dubai’s sky­scrapers to sway and could be felt 1,060 km away on the Mediter­ranean coast. Nearly 120 af­ter­shocks fol­lowed.

Kokab Fard, a 49-year-old house­wife in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab, said she could only flee empty-handed when her apart­ment com­plex col­lapsed.

“Im­me­di­ately af­ter I man­aged to get out, the build­ing col­lapsed,” Fard said. “I have no ac­cess to my be­long­ings.”

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