EMERGENCY CREWS END SEARCH FOR EARTHQUAKE SURVIVORS
▶ Thousands of people left homeless and others spent a second night in the open for fear of more tremors
Iran yesterday called off rescue operations after a powerful weekend earthquake killed at least 450 people and injured thousands.
“The rescue operations in the Kermanshah province have ended,” said Pir-Hossein Kolivand, head of Iran’s emergency medical services.
The 7.3-magnitude earthquake on Sunday struck villages and towns in the mountainous area of Kermanshah province bordering Iraq while many people were at home asleep. At least 14 provinces in Iran were affected.
Thousands huddled in makeshift camps while many others spent a second night in the open for fear of more tremors after more than 190 aftershocks.
A homeless young woman in the hard-hit town of Sarpol-e Sahab said that her family was exposed to the cold night because there were no more tents.
“It is a very cold night,” she said. “We need help. We need everything. The authorities should speed up their help.”
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, offered his condolences on Monday and called on government agencies to do all they could to help those affected.
Iranian police, the Revolutionary Guard and its affiliated Basij militia forces were sent to affected areas on Sunday night. President Hassan Rouhani was to visit the area yesterday.
Workers combed through the rubble of dozens of villages after the quake, as rescue dogs sniffed for signs of life under collapsed buildings.
But Iranian officials said the chances of finding any more survivors were extremely low.
Hospitals in nearby provinces took in many of the injured, while hundreds of critically hurt people were sent to hospitals in Tehran.
Iran’s Red Crescent said emergency shelters had been given to thousands of homeless people, but lack of water and electricity, as well as blocked roads in some areas, hindered aid supply efforts.
Authorities said chaos on roads, caused by people from nearby provinces who were rushing to help, further hampered the flow of aid to quakehit areas.
“People in some villages are still in dire need of food, water and shelter,” said Faramarz Akbari, the governor of Qasr-e Shirin. More than 30,000 houses in the area were damaged and at least two villages were completely destroyed, Iranian authorities said.
Houses in Iranian villages are often made of concrete blocks or mud brick, which can crumble and collapse in a strong quake.
“More people will die because of cold,” said Rojan Meshkat, 38, in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj.
“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.”
Iran is crossed with major fault lines and has suffered devastating earthquakes in recent years, including a 6.6-magnitude quake in 2003 that destroyed the south-eastern city of Bam and killed about 31,000 people.
The latest quake, centred in Penjwin in Iraq’s Sulaimaniyah province in the Kurdistan region, killed at least six people in Iraq and injured more than 68 others. In northern Iraq’s Kurdish districts, seven were killed and 325 injured.
Survivors yesterday carry belongings saved from buildings destroyed by Sunday’s earthquake