Con­struc­tion of homes a fac­tor in quake deaths

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY NASSER KARIMI AND MO­HAM­MAD NASIRI As­so­ci­ated Press

– Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion Tues­day into why gov­ern­ment hous­ing built by his hard-line pre­de­ces­sor col­lapsed while oth­ers with­stood a pow­er­ful earth­quake near the bor­der with Iraq that killed more than 530 peo­ple.

In the Kur­dish town of Sar­pol-e-Za­hab, which was re­con­structed 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.

Some now-home­less sur­vivors sim­ply wept out­side, while oth­ers an­grily showed As­so­ci­ated Press jour­nal­ists the de­struc­tion done by 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.

She sar­cas­ti­cally added: “This is ‘kind­ness’ as the name sug­gests very well!”

Res­cuers used back­hoes and other heavy equip­ment to dig through top­pled build­ings in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab, 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.

Both res­cuers and res­i­dents stood on the re­mains of homes, look­ing through the rub­ble. Searchers used dogs to comb the de­bris — just as they have since Iran’s 2003 earth­quake in Bam that killed 26,000 peo­ple — al­though some cler­ics in­sist the an­i­mals are un­clean.

The quake badly dam­aged the Sar­pol-e-Za­hab hos­pi­tal, forc­ing the army to set up field clin­ics. The quake also re­port­edly killed an un­spec­i­fied num­ber of sol­diers in an ar- my gar­ri­son.

Aside from the 530 peo­ple killed in Iran, 7,817 were in­jured, the state-run IRNA news agency re­ported. Health Min­is­ter Has­san Ghaz­izadeh Hashemi, who vis­ited Ker­man­shah on Tues­day, warned that the death toll prob­a­bly would rise.

“My feel­ing is that num­ber … will in­crease since vic­tims were buried in many vil­lages that their ex­act statis­tics will be an­nounced in com­ing days,” he said, ac­cord­ing to the semi-of­fi­cial ISNA news agency.

Rouhani in­spected the dam­age in the prov­ince and of­fered his sup­port. “This was a pain for all Ira­ni­ans,” he said. Nine peo­ple were killed in Iraq and 550 were in­jured, all in the coun­try’s north­ern, semi­au­tonomous Kur­dish re­gion, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions.

Rouhani him­self said the gov­ern­ment would launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into why the state-con­structed build­ings so eas­ily top­pled.

“The faults and short­com­ings in the con­struc­tion of these build­ings should be in­ves­ti­gated,” he said, ac­cord­ing to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Atta Kenare / Getty Images

An Ira­nian boy rides a bi­cy­cle past dam­aged build­ings in the town of Sar­pol-e Za­hab in Iran's western prov­ince.

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