Iran-Iraq border quake’s death toll rises over 400

Fran­tic res­cuers dig through de­bris fol­low­ing 7.3 quake.

The Palm Beach Post - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Nasser Karimi and Amir Vah­dat

TEHRAN, IRAN — Res­cuers dug with their bare hands Mon­day through the de­bris of build­ings brought down by a pow­er­ful earth­quake that killed more than 400 peo­ple in the once-con­tested moun­tain­ous border re­gion be­tween Iraq and Iran, with nearly all of the vic­tims in an area re­built since the end of the ru­inous 1980s war.

Sun­day night’s mag­ni­tude 7.3 earth­quake struck about 19 miles out­side the east­ern Iraqi city of Hal­abja, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent mea­sure­ments from the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey. It hit at 9:48 p.m. Iran time, just as peo­ple were go­ing to bed.

The worst dam­age ap­peared to be in the Kur­dish town of Sar­pol-e-Za­hab in the west­ern Ira­nian prov­ince of Kermanshah, which sits in the Za­gros Moun­tains that di­vide Iran and Iraq.

Res­i­dents fled into the streets as the quake struck, with­out time to grab their pos­ses­sions, as apart­ment com­plexes col­lapsed into rub­ble. Out­side walls of some com­plexes were sheared off by the quake, power and wa­ter lines were sev­ered, and tele­phone ser­vice was dis­rupted.

Res­i­dents dug fran­ti­cally through wrecked build­ings for sur­vivors as they wailed. Fire­fight­ers from Tehran joined other res­cuers in the des­per­ate search, us­ing dogs to in­spect the rub­ble.

The hospi­tal in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab was heav­ily dam­aged, and the army set up field hos­pi­tals, al­though many of the in­jured were moved to other cities, in­clud­ing Tehran.

It also dam­aged an army gar­ri­son and build­ings in the border city and killed an un­spec­i­fied num­ber of sol­diers, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei im­me­di­ately dis­patched all gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary forces to aid those af­fected.

Many of the heav­ily dam­aged com­plexes in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab were part of con­struc­tion projects un­der former hard-line Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad. The newly home­less slept out­side in the cold, hud­dled around makeshift fires for warmth, wrapped in blan­kets — as were the dead.

The quake killed 407 peo­ple in Iran and in­jured 7,156 oth­ers, Iran’s cri­sis man­age­ment head­quar­ters spokesman Behnam Saeedi told state TV. Most of the in­juries were mi­nor, he said, with fewer than 1,000 still hos­pi­tal­ized.

The semi-of­fi­cial Tas­nim news agency re­ported 445 dead and 7,370 in­jured. There was no im­me­di­ate ex­pla­na­tion of the dis­crep­ancy, al­though dou­ble-count­ing of vic­tims is com­mon dur­ing such dis­as­ters in Iran.

The of­fi­cial death toll came from pro­vin­cial foren­sic au­thor­i­ties based on death cer­tifi­cates is­sued. Some re­ports said au­thor­i­ties have warned that unau­tho­rized buri­als with­out cer­ti­fi­ca­tion could mean the death toll was ac­tu­ally higher.

In Iraq, the earth­quake killed at least seven peo­ple and in­jured 535 oth­ers, all in the coun­try’s north­ern, semi­au­tonomous Kur­dish re­gion, ac­cord­ing to its In­te­rior Min­istry.

OMID SALEHI / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sur­vivors sit near dam­aged build­ings Mon­day in Sar­pol-e-Za­hab, in west­ern Iran, the day af­ter Sun­day night’s earth­quake. Out­side walls of some apart­ment com­plexes were sheared off and power and wa­ter lines were sev­ered.

FARZAD MENATI / TAS­NIM NEWS AGENCY

A rel­a­tive weeps over the body of an earth­quake vic­tim

Mon­day in Sar­pol-eZa­hab. The city ap­peared to have the worst dam­age from the quake.

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