Sur­vivors bat­tle cold and hunger

thou­sands spend a sec­ond night in the open af­ter 193 af­ter­shocks Iran de­clared tues­day as a na­tional day of mourn­ing Sev­eral vil­lages were to­tally de­stroyed in Iran’s Dala­hoo County Worst-af­fected town of Sar­pol-e Za­hab is still with­out elec­tric­ity Pr

Khaleej Times - - FRONT PAGE - AFP

Tens of thou­sands of Ira­ni­ans spent a sec­ond night in the open af­ter a 7.3-mag­ni­tude quake struck near the bor­der with Iraq, killing more than 530 peo­ple.

Res­i­dents who had fled their homes when Sun­day’s quake rocked the moun­tain­ous re­gion span­ning Iran’s western prov­ince of Ker­man­shah and neigh­bour­ing Iraqi Kur­dis­tan braved chilly tem­per­a­tures as au­thor­i­ties strug­gled to get aid into the quake zone.

Iran has de­clared on Tues­day a na­tional day of mourn­ing as of­fi­cials out­lined the most press­ing pri­or­i­ties and de­scribed the lev­els of de­struc­tion in some parts as “to­tal”.

Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani vis­ited the city of Ker­man­shah on Tues­day and promised that the gov­ern­ment would move swiftly to help those left home­less by the dis­as­ter.

“I want to as­sure those who are suf­fer­ing that the gov­ern­ment has be­gun to act with all means at its dis­posal and is scram­bling to re­solve this prob­lem as quickly as pos­si­ble,” he said.

Rouhani said that all aid would be chan­nelled through the Hous­ing Foun­da­tion, one of the char­i­ta­ble trusts set up af­ter the Is­lamic revo­lu­tion of 1979 that are ma­jor play­ers in the Ira­nian econ­omy.

The head of the elite Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards, Ma­jor Gen­eral Mo­ham­mad Ali Ja­fari, said the im­me­di­ate need was for tents, wa­ter and food.

“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 530 dead and 7,460 in­jured, while across the bor­der in more sparsely pop­u­lated ar­eas of Iraq, the health min­istry said eight peo­ple had died and 535 were in­jured. Iraq’s Red Cres­cent put the toll at nine dead.

Of­fi­cials said they were set­ting up re­lief camps for the dis­placed and that 22,000 tents, 52,000 blan­kets and tonnes 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 supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei or­dered the gov­ern­ment and armed forces to mo­bilise “all their means”.

By late Mon­day, of­fi­cials said all the roads in Ker­man­shah prov­ince had been re­opened, al­though the worst-af­fected town of Sar­pol-e Za­hab re­mained with­out elec­tric­ity, state tele­vi­sion re­ported.

At least 280 peo­ple were killed in the town, home to some 85,000 peo­ple. Crum­pled ve­hi­cles lay un­der the rub­ble of flat­tened build­ings on the streets.

The tre­mor shook sev­eral western Ira­nian ci­ties in­clud­ing Tabriz and was also felt in south­east­ern Tur­key, an AFP cor­re­spon­dent said. In the city of Di­yarbakir, fright­ened res­i­dents ran out into the streets.

Sev­eral vil­lages were to­tally de­stroyed in Iran’s Dala­hoo County, the Tas­nim news agency re­ported. Five historical mon­u­ments in Ker­man­shah suf­fered mi­nor dam­age, but the Unesco-listed Be­his­tun in­scrip­tion from the sev­enth cen­tury BC was not af­fected, the Isna news agency said.

In the Iraqi town of Dar­bandikhan, Nizar Ab­dul­lah spent Sun­day night with neigh­bours sift­ing through the ru­ins of a two-storey home next door af­ter it crum­bled into con­crete de­bris. “There were eight peo­ple inside,” the 34-year-old Iraqi Kurd said.

Some fam­ily mem­bers man­aged to escape, but “neigh­bours and res­cue work­ers pulled out the mother and one of the chil­dren dead from the rub­ble”.

The quake, which struck at a rel­a­tively shal­low depth of 23km, was felt for about 20 sec­onds in Bagh­dad, and for longer in other prov­inces of Iraq.

It struck along a 1,500km fault line be­tween the Ara­bian and Eurasian tec­tonic plates, which ex­tends through western Iran and north­east­ern Iraq. The area sees fre­quent seis­mic ac­tiv­ity.

In 1990, a 7.4-mag­ni­tude quake in north­ern Iran killed 40,000 peo­ple, in­jured 300,000 and left half a mil­lion home­less, re­duc­ing dozens of towns and nearly 2,000 vil­lages to rub­ble.

Thir­teen years later, a cat­a­strophic quake flat­tened swathes of the an­cient south­east­ern Ira­nian city of Bam, killing at least 31,000. —

Res­cuers carry the body of an earth­quake vic­tim in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab, western Iran, on Tues­day. —

AP

Sur­vivors sit on the de­bris while res­cuers search on the earth­quake site in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab, western Iran, on Tues­day. —

AP

Rel­a­tives of vic­tims of the earth­quake mourn in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab on Tues­day. —

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