Searching for the dead
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