Earthquake toll reaches 530 as Iran marks day of mourning
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