Search­ing for the dead

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - WORLD -

Sar­pol-e-Za­hab – Res­cuers yes­ter­day used ex­ca­vat­ing ma­chines and heavy equip­ment to dig through the de­bris of build­ings top­pled by a pow­er­ful earth­quake on the bor­der be­tween Iran and Iraq.

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 mag­ni­tude 7.3 earth­quake.

Ker­man­shah, an al­most en­tirely Kur­dish prov­ince nes­tled in the Za­gros Moun­tains that run along the bor­der with Iraq, suf­fered all of Iran’s fa­tal­i­ties from the tem­blor on Sun­day that shook 14 of the coun­try’s 31 prov­inces.

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.

There are fears more dead could be in the rub­ble in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab and other ru­ral vil­lages of Ker­man­shah prov­ince.

Mo­ham­mad Ali Mon­shizadeh, a spokesper­son for the pro­vin­cial foren­sic de­part­ment, said as many as 150 peo­ple were buried by fam­ily mem­bers in re­mote vil­lages who had not been counted in the of­fi­cial death toll.

Iran’s Red Cres­cent also said it wor­ried about more bod­ies in ru­ral vil­lages.

Pres­i­dent Hassan Rouhani ar­rived in Ker­man­shah prov­ince yes­ter­day to see the dam­age for him­self and of­fer his sup­port to those af­fected.

Sar­pol-e-Za­hab fell to the troops of Iraqi dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Hus­sein dur­ing his 1980 in­va­sion of Iran, which sparked the eight-year war be­tween the two coun­tries that killed 1 mil­lion peo­ple.

Al­though clawed back by Iran seven months later, the area re­mained a war zone that suf­fered through Sad­dam’s mis­sile at­tacks and chem­i­cal weapons.

Af­ter the war, Iran be­gan re­build­ing the town. Un­der the plan dubbed Mehr, or “kind­ness” in Farsi, about 2 mil­lion hous­ing units were built in Iran, in­clud­ing hun­dreds in Sar­pol-e Za­hab.

Many crit­i­cised the plan, warn­ing that the low-qual­ity con­struc­tion could lead to a dis­as­ter. Rouhani said the gov­ern­ment would launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into why state-con­structed build­ings so eas­ily top­pled.

Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter, Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif, of­fered his thanks to for­eign coun­tries of­fer­ing to help but wrote on Twit­ter: “For now, we are able to man­age with our own re­sources.”

As many as 150 peo­ple were buried in re­mote vil­lages who had not been counted in the of­fi­cial death toll.

Mo­ham­mad Ali Mon­shizadeh Spokesper­son for the pro­vin­cial foren­sic de­part­ment

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