Ah­madine­jad’s ‘kind­ness hous­ing’ un­der scru­tiny

The National - News - - NEWS -

Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion yes­ter­day into why gov­ern­ment hous­ing built by his hard-line pre­de­ces­sor col­lapsed while oth­ers with­stood a pow­er­ful earth­quake near the bor­der with Iraq.

In the Kur­dish town of Sar­pol-e-Za­hab, re­built in the decades since the 1980s war with Iraq, the outer walls of apart­ment com­plexes tum­bled away in the mag­ni­tude-7.3 earth­quake Sun­day night.

The hous­ing was built as a part of the “mehr” or “kind­ness” project of for­mer pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad.

In the town, home­less sur­vivors wept out­side, while oth­ers an­grily showed the de­struc­tion from the quake.

“Other build­ings near our apart­ment are not dam­aged as much be­cause they were built pri­vately,” said Fer­dows Shah­bazi, 42, who lived in one of the mehr build­ings. “This is ‘kind­ness’ as the name sug­gests very well,”

Res­cuers used back­hoes to dig into fallen build­ings, home to more than half of the dead.

The apart­ment com­plexes sit next to lush pas­tures in the al­most en­tirely Kur­dish prov­ince of Ker­man­shah, nes­tled in the Za­gros Moun­tains along the bor­der with Iraq.

The quake badly dam­aged Sar­pol-e-Za­hab hos­pi­tal, forc­ing the army to set up clin­ics.

About 530 peo­ple were killed in Iran and 7,817 in­jured.

The quake hit about 30 kilo­me­tres out­side the east­ern Iraqi city of Hal­abja, the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said, and struck 23 kilo­me­tres be­low the sur­face. Seven peo­ple were killed in Iraq and 535 were in­jured, all in the coun­try’s north­ern Kur­dish re­gion.

The dis­par­ity in the tolls has drawn ques­tions from Ira­ni­ans, es­pe­cially be­cause so much of Sar­pol-e-Za­hab was new.

The quake de­stroyed 12,000 apart­ments and free-stand­ing homes, and dam­aged an­other 15,000.

Some point to the mehr homes. About 2 mil­lion units were built in Iran as part of the pop­ulist pro­gramme by Mr Ah­madine­jad, who also of­fered cash pay­outs and other in­cen­tives to ap­pease the pub­lic while Iran faced crip­pling eco­nomic sanc­tions over its nu­clear pro­gramme.

But af­ter the hous­ing was built, some did not have paved roads or wa­ter go­ing to them.

Mr Ah­madine­jad’s chan­nel on mes­sag­ing app Tele­gram called the ac­cu­sa­tions “me­dia slan­der” and said those who cir­cu­lated photos and videos of dam­aged mehr homes were “clumsy char­la­tans”.

In May, a mag­ni­tude 5.7 quake in the north-east­ern city of Bo­j­nourd heav­ily dam­aged sim­i­lar mehr projects there.

In Sar­pol-e-Za­hab, Mr Rouhani said that the gov­ern­ment would look into what went wrong at the mehr homes, some of which his ad­min­is­tra­tion handed over.

He promised cash pay­ments and loans to those af­fected to build new homes and urged of­fi­cials to be gen­er­ous with dis­as­ter re­lief.

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