State-built homes face scru­tiny af­ter quake

The Washington Post - - THE WORLD -

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

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 in the 7.3-mag­ni­tude quake Sun­day night. The hous­ing was built as part of the Mehr, or kind­ness, project of then-Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad.

The tem­blor killed nine peo­ple in Iraq and in­jured 550, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions.

The dis­par­ity in the two coun­tries’ ca­su­alty tolls has drawn ques­tions from Ira­ni­ans, es­pe­cially be­cause so much of Sar­pol-e Za­hab was new. Ini­tial es­ti­mates sug­gest that the earth­quake de­stroyed 12,000 apart­ments and free-stand­ing homes, and dam­aged 15,000.

Some im­me­di­ately pointed to the Mehr homes. About 2 mil­lion units were built in Iran, in­clud­ing scores in Sar­pol-e Za­hab.

But af­ter the units were built, some did not have paved roads or wa­ter go­ing to them. Many warned that the low-qual­ity con­struc­tion could be a prob­lem in Iran, which faces near-daily quakes and is on ma­jor fault lines.

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