Post-quake help for vil­lage in Iran

With the gov­ern­ment strug­gling to reach re­mote ar­eas, peo­ple are lend­ing a hand.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Ramin Mostaghim and Shashank Ben­gali shashank.ben­gali @la­times.com Twit­ter: @SBen­gali Spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent Mostaghim re­ported from Quik Hasan and Times staff writer Ben­gali from Mumbai, In­dia.

QUIK HASAN, Iran — The res­i­dents of Quik Hasan vil­lage slept out­doors in the cold and awoke early Tues­day look­ing for help. Fifty peo­ple had died here in a mas­sive earth­quake two nights ear­lier and had been buried by their rel­a­tives in makeshift graves.

But when aid work­ers from the Ira­nian Red Cres­cent ar­rived, they dis­trib­uted 30 tents — far too few in this agrar­ian vil­lage of 170 house­holds.

“No state-run en­ter­prise is help­ing. Peo­ple are help­ing peo­ple,” said Ayasheh Karami, 60, stand­ing amid the ru­ins of her house. A cousin sat cry­ing on a car­pet next to re­frig­er­a­tors, a pot­ted plant, a lone wooden drawer and a few other pos­ses­sions they had been able to drag out­side.

Iran was strug­gling to de­liver re­lief 48 hours af­ter the worst earth­quake to strike the coun­try in more than a decade. State-run me­dia re­ported that the death toll had in­creased to 530 peo­ple, with 7,460 in­jured, and of­fi­cials said it could rise fur­ther as they slowly tally vic­tims buried by fam­ily mem­bers in far-flung vil­lages.

All the fa­tal­i­ties and the worst dam­age oc­curred here in Ker­man­shah, a vast but mostly empty western prov­ince that forms part of the coun­try’s eth­ni­cally Kur­dish re­gion. The Red Cres­cent re­ported that 12,000 res­i­den­tial build­ings had col­lapsed and more than 500 vil­lages had been af­fected, with tens of thou­sands home­less.

The mag­ni­tude 7.3 earth­quake, which struck near the moun­tain­ous Iran-Iraq bor­der Sun­day night, also killed 10 peo­ple in Iraq and wounded hun­dreds, of­fi­cials said.

Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Hassan Rouhani vis­ited the hard­est-hit city of Sar­pol-e Za­hab, near the Iraqi bor­der, and pledged to per­son­ally over­see the re­build­ing ef­fort, which would in­clude loans for hous­ing con­struc­tion.

“This was painful for all Ira­ni­ans,” Rouhani said. “The gov­ern­ment will ac­cel­er­ate this process so that it can be done in the short­est time pos­si­ble.”

In Sar­pol-e Za­hab, home to about 50,000 peo­ple, walls at schools, shops and po­lice sta­tions had col­lapsed, and peo­ple slept on patches of grass out­side their homes. Parks had be­come en­camp­ments dot­ted with mul­ti­col­ored tents as sol­diers pa­trolled to de­ter loot­ing and anti-riot po­lice su­per­vised the dis­tri­bu­tion of food and wa­ter.

Rouhani’s gov­ern­ment has not asked for in­ter­na­tional as­sis­tance, leav­ing the re­lief ef­fort in the hands of the Red Cres­cent, a few other non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, mil­i­tary agen­cies such as the para­mil­i­tary Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps — and in­di­vid­ual good Sa­mar­i­tans.

In Quik Hasan, one com­pany af­fil­i­ated with the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard sent ma­chin­ery to move de­bris and a tanker to dis­trib­ute wa­ter.

“We are grate­ful for global ex­pres­sions of sym­pa­thy and of­fers of as­sis­tance,” For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif tweeted. “For now, we can man­age with our own re­sources.”

But along the road from Sar­pol-e Za­hab to Quik Hasan, a dis­tance of about 10 miles, there were few aid con­voys — a sign that sig­nif­i­cant as­sis­tance still had not reached the most re­mote vil­lages.

In the vil­lage of Zarin Joub, about two dozen mourn­ers clad in black — some wear­ing dis­pos­able masks to guard against dust kicked up by the wreck­age — gath­ered in a field for a fu­neral ser­vice for Sirous Piri, an el­derly man whose rel­a­tives said died while res­cu­ing his wife and child from their fall­ing house.

Twelve peo­ple died in the vil­lage of al­most 400 in­hab­i­tants, res­i­dents said.

Rel­a­tives from Iran’s scat­tered but tightly knit Kur­dish com­mu­nity were among the first to reach Quik Hasan, bring­ing food, erect­ing tents and help­ing res­i­dents dig with their hands through the rub­ble of homes con­structed from con­crete blocks and brick.

So­maye Hasani, a 20year-old from Tehran whose rel­a­tives live in the vil­lage, trav­eled here to help dis­trib­ute aid.

The night be­fore, Hasani said, two doc­tors, a hus­band and wife, ar­rived from north­ern Iran to vol­un­teer their help and ad­min­is­tered emer­gency med­i­cal care to a woman who had been res­cued from be­neath a house.

A cleric re­turn­ing from a pil­grim­age in the Iraqi city of Kar­bala — one of the holi­est in Shi­ite Is­lam — stopped to col­lect do­nated food and brought it to the vil­lage.

Most res­i­dents of Quik Hasan sur­vive by rais­ing live­stock, and the lack of wa­ter was harm­ing flocks of goats and sheep. One shep­herd, who gave his name only as Mo­rad, was nearly in­con­solable be­cause on the night of the tem­blor, he had leashed his shep­herd dog out­side his house as usual and the dog was crushed un­der a col­laps­ing wall.

As dark­ness fell over the vil­lage, fam­i­lies lighted camp­fires, the smoke ris­ing against a cloud­less in­digo sky. They cooked mac­a­roni soup, beans and tea in sal­vaged pots. Women’s cries filled the night air, but it was too early to sleep.

Atta Kenare AFP/Getty Images

A MAN catches a break amid sal­vaged be­long­ings out­side dam­aged build­ings in Sar­pol-e Za­hab, Iran. The mag­ni­tude 7.3 quake that struck near the bor­der with Iraq on Sun­day has left more than 500 peo­ple dead and thou­sands hurt in Iran. Iraq also suf­fered ca­su­al­ties.

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