The com­plex busi­ness of mit­i­gat­ing against dis­as­ter

▶ As the death toll from Sun­day’s earth­quake rises, will Iran’s re­sources be enough?

The National - News - - OPINION -

As sur­vivors of the dead­li­est earth­quake to strike this year strug­gle with freez­ing con­di­tions, no one can have failed to have been moved by pic­tures of ba­bies be­ing res­cued from the rub­ble and weep­ing rel­a­tives dig­ging through col­lapsed build­ings, search­ing for any sign of life. The death toll from the quake on the Iran-Iraq bor­der stands at more than 500 with thou­sands more in­jured, a fig­ure that is likely to rise. Au­thor­i­ties are only just be­gin­ning to count the hefty losses at the earth­quake’s epi­cen­tre in Ker­man­shah prov­ince, Iran, which mea­sured 7.3 on the Richter scale on Sun­day night. The chal­lenge they face over the com­ing days and weeks is not sim­ply one of pro­vid­ing food, wa­ter, blan­kets and elec­tric­ity to those left stranded in makeshift camps. A re­ported 12,000 build­ings have col­lapsed and en­tire com­mu­ni­ties have been de­stroyed.

It will also re­quire an enor­mous ef­fort to pro­vide aid in the short-term and in the long-term, to come up with a con­tin­gency plan to mit­i­gate against fu­ture dis­as­ter. Iran sits on ma­jor fault lines and the risk of an­other earth­quake is ex­tremely likely. A 2003 quake in Bam in south­east­ern Iran killed more than 26,000 peo­ple and nine years later, more than 300 peo­ple fell vic­tim to an­other shock­wave. The prospect of dev­as­tat­ing earth­quakes is a re­al­ity for many Ira­ni­ans and pro­tect­ing them against such losses re­quires in­vest­ment in pro­tec­tive mea­sures.

For now, the ur­gency is to help those in need. The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is poised to help when­ever it is called upon. The UN has said: “As­sis­tance is avail­able.” Govern­ments around the world are ready and will­ing to dis­patch aid. Medecins Sans Fron­tieres has doc­tors deal­ing with ca­su­al­ties in Su­lay­maniyah Emer­gency Hos­pi­tal in north­ern Iraq. Iran’s for­eign min­is­ter Javad Zarif has so far largely de­clined of­fers and said: “For now, we can man­age with our re­sources”. One can only hope they will be suf­fi­cient as an­other bit­terly cold night will soon be upon them.

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