Iranians sleep out in cold at quake zone
TENS of thousands of Iranians spent a second night in the open air after a 7.3magnitude quake struck near the border with Iraq, killing more than 400.
People who had fled their homes when the quake rocked the mountainous region spanning Iran’s western province of Kermanshah and Iraqi Kurdistan on Sunday evening, braved chilly temperatures as authorities struggled to get aid into the quake zone.
Iran declared yesterday a national day of mourning, as officials outlined the most pressing priorities and described the levels of destruction in some parts as “total”.
“People’s immediate needs are firstly tents, water and food,” said the head of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari.
“Newly constructed buildings . . . held up well, but the old houses built with earth were totally destroyed,” he told state television during a visit to the affected region.
The toll in Iran stood at 413 dead and 6 700 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.
Foreign media organisations have not been allowed to visit the scene of the disaster.
Officials said they were setting up relief camps for the displaced and that 22 000 tents, 52 000 blankets and tons of food and water had been distributed. The official Irna news agency said 30 Red Crescent teams had been sent to the area.
Hundreds of ambulances and dozens of army helicopters were reported to have joined the rescue effort after Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the government and armed forces to mobilise “all their means”.
By late on Monday, officials said all the roads in Kermanshah province had been reopened, although the worst-affected town of Sar-e Pol-e Zahab remained without electricity.
At least 280 people were killed in the town, home to some 85 000 people. Buildings had collapsed, their former facades now rubble on crumpled vehicles.
The tremor shook several western Iranian cities and was also felt in southeastern Turkey. In the town of Diyarbakir, residents were reported to have fled their homes.
Several villages were totally destroyed in Iran’s Dalahoo County. — AFP