Iran calls off quake res­cue ef­forts

Home­less sur­vivors of earth­quake bat­tle night tem­per­a­tures just above freez­ing point and need food and wa­ter

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Parisa Hafezi

Ira­nian of­fi­cials called off res­cue op­er­a­tions, say­ing there was lit­tle chance of find­ing more sur­vivors from the earth­quake that shook parts of western Iran.

Ira­nian of­fi­cials called off res­cue op­er­a­tions, say­ing there was lit­tle chance of find­ing more sur­vivors from the earth­quake that shook parts of western Iran on Sun­day, killing at least 530 peo­ple, state me­dia said.

Sur­vivors, many of whom were left home­less by the earth­quake that mea­sured 7.3 on the Richter scale and that struck vil­lages and towns in a moun­tain­ous area bor­der­ing Iraq, bat­tled overnight tem­per­a­tures just above freez­ing point and faced yet an­other bleak day on Tues­day need­ing food and wa­ter.

The 530 death toll re­ported by state news agency Irna, made it Iran’s dead­li­est earth­quake in more than a decade.

Thou­sands of peo­ple were in­jured and 30,000 homes dam­aged. Two whole vil­lages were de­stroyed.

The quake wreaked the most dam­age in Iran de­spite an epi­cen­tre on the Iraqi side of the fron­tier. Iraqi of­fi­cials said seven peo­ple were killed and 325 in­jured in Iraq, all in the north­ern Kur­dish prov­inces.

Iran’s Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani ar­rived in the morn­ing in the stricken area in Ker­man­shah prov­ince and promised that the gov­ern­ment would “use all its power to re­solve the prob­lems in the short­est time”.

Thou­sands of peo­ple hud­dled in makeshift camps while many oth­ers chose to spend a sec­ond night in the open, de­spite low tem­per­a­tures, be­cause they feared more tremors af­ter about 193 af­ter­shocks were felt, state tele­vi­sion said.

A home­less young woman in Sar­pol-e Za­hab, one of the hard­est-hit towns, told state TV that her fam­ily was ex­posed to the night cold be­cause of lack of tents. “We need help. We need ev­ery­thing. The au­thor­i­ties should speed up their help,” the woman said.

Tele­vi­sion footage showed res­cue work­ers comb­ing through the rub­ble of dozens of vil­lages im­me­di­ately af­ter the quake. But by Tues­day morn­ing Ira­nian of­fi­cials said there was no longer any like­li­hood of find­ing sur­vivors and called off the res­cue ef­fort.

“The res­cue op­er­a­tions in Ker­man­shah prov­ince have ended,” Pir-Hos­sein Ko­li­vand, head of Iran’s Emer­gency Med­i­cal Ser­vices, said.

Iran’s top au­thor­ity, Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, of­fered his con­do­lences to the vic­tims on Mon­day and called on gov­ern­ment agen­cies to do all they could to help.

ARMED FORCES

The Ira­nian army, the elite Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards and forces of its af­fil­i­ated Basij mili­tia were dis­patched to af­fected ar­eas on Sun­day night.

Hos­pi­tals in nearby prov­inces took in many of the in­jured, state tele­vi­sion said, air­ing footage of sur­vivors wait­ing to be treated. Hun­dreds of crit­i­cally in­jured peo­ple were dis­patched to hos­pi­tals in Tehran.

Iran’s Red Cres­cent said emer­gency shel­ter had been pro­vided for thou­sands of home­less peo­ple, but a lack of wa­ter and elec­tric­ity as well as blocked roads in some ar­eas hin­dered aid sup­ply ef­forts.

“Peo­ple in some vil­lages are still in dire need of food, wa­ter and shel­ter,” the gov­er­nor of Qasr-e Shirin county, in Ker­man­shah prov­ince, Fara­marz Ak­bari, said.

Nazar Barani, mayor of Ezgeleh, a city in Ker­man­shah, said that 80% of the city’s build­ings had col­lapsed.

Quake sur­vivors des­per­ately needed tents with el­derly peo­ple and ba­bies as young as one year old sleep­ing in the cold for two con­sec­u­tive nights.

In an in­ter­view with state tele­vi­sion, Barani asked peo­ple to send fuel, milk, wa­ter and food as emer­gency ser­vices were too slow and pro­vided lim­ited pro­vi­sions.

“Peo­ple are hun­gry and thirsty,” a lo­cal man told Isna news agency. “There is no elec­tric­ity. Last night I cried when I saw chil­dren with no food or shel­ter,” he said.

Houses in Ira­nian vil­lages are of­ten made of con­crete blocks or mud brick that can crum­ble and col­lapse in a strong quake.

Some peo­ple are an­gry that among the build­ings that col­lapsed were homes that the gov­ern­ment had built in re­cent years un­der an af­ford­able hous­ing pro­gramme.

Pho­to­graphs on Ira­nian news web­sites showed res­cue work­ers dig­ging peo­ple out of col­lapsed build­ings, cars smashed be­neath rub­ble and res­cue dogs try­ing to find signs of life un­der the twisted ru­ins.

“More peo­ple will die be­cause of cold. My fam­ily lives in a vil­lage near Sar­pol-e Za­hab. I can­not even go there. I don’t know whether they are dead or alive,” Ro­jan Meshkat, 38, in the Kur­dish city of Sanan­daj told Reuters by tele­phone.

/AFP Photo

Af­ter­math: An Ira­nian boy cy­cles past dam­aged build­ings in the town of Sar­pol-e Za­hab in Iran’s western Ker­man­shah prov­ince near the bor­der with Iraq on Tues­day, fol­low­ing a 7.3-mag­ni­tude earth­quake that left hun­dreds killed and thou­sands home­less.

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