Earth­quake toll reaches 530 as Iran marks day of mourn­ing

The Guardian - - INTERNATIONAL - Saeed Ka­mali De­hghan Iran cor­re­spon­dent

Ira­nian of­fi­cials have raised the death toll from Sun­day’s earth­quake to at least 530, mak­ing it the dead­li­est in the world this year.

The pres­i­dent, Has­san Rouhani, trav­elled yes­ter­day to Ker­man­shah on the Iraqi bor­der, the area hard­est hit by the 7.3 mag­ni­tude quake, which was felt hun­dreds of miles away in Tehran and Bagh­dad.

Of­fi­cials in Iran de­clared yes­ter­day a na­tional day of mourn­ing and news­pa­pers broke with tra­di­tion to pub­lish their front page head­lines in Kur­dish, a rare show of sol­i­dar­ity with the ma­jor­ity-Kur­dish ar­eas worst af­fected.

“Iran wept,” read the front page of the re­formist daily Aftab-e Yazd, over a large pho­to­graph of an Ira­nian woman hold­ing a lost fam­ily mem­ber in her arms. “Ker­man­shah, you are not alone,” read the re­formist Etemaad news­pa­per’s head­line.

Mo­ham­mad-Ali Mon­shizadeh, an of­fi­cial from Ker­man­shah prov­ince, told the Irna state news agency: “Up to now, we have is­sued 430 death cer­tifi­cates … but an es­ti­mated num­ber of 100 to 150 more peo­ple have been buried in quake-stricken vil­lages and towns with­out per­mis­sion … which raises the over­all death toll to be­tween 530 and 580 in Ker­man­shah.”

At least 7,460 peo­ple were in­jured dur­ing the earth­quake, which hit seven big ci­ties and 1,950 vil­lages in the prov­ince. Of­fi­cials said 12,000 houses had been de­stroyed and a fur­ther 15,000 dam­aged, Irna re­ported. Iran strug­gled to shel­ter all those af­fected, as thou­sands were forced to sleep in the open with­out elec­tric­ity or wa­ter sup­plies.

“We are liv­ing in a tent and we don’t have enough food or wa­ter,” Ali Gu­lani, 42, from Qasr-e Shirin, told the BBC’s Per­sian ser­vice. “You can hear chil­dren cry­ing; it’s too cold. They are hold­ing on to their par­ents to warm them­selves – it’s pretty bad.”

Speak­ing in Ker­man­shah, Rouhani promised emer­gency fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance. “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.

Se­ri­ous ques­tions have been raised about the con­struc­tion stan­dards of a se­ries of newly built flats that col­lapsed or were se­verely dam­aged. Iran’s first vi­cepres­i­dent, Eshaq Ja­hangiri, said many had been built as part of an af­ford­able hous­ing scheme in­tro­duced by the for­mer pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad.

The Ira­nian daily news­pa­per Hamdeli blamed Ah­madine­jad for the scale of de­struc­tion, pub­lish­ing a car­toon on its front page – un­der the head­line “This is what you cooked” – of the for­mer pres­i­dent tak­ing a selfie in the rub­ble.

Sun­day’s earth­quake was the dead­li­est in Iran for more than a decade.

Iran’s pres­i­dent, Has­san Rouhani, vis­ited the quake area yes­ter­day and promised vic­tims emer­gency fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance

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