State-built homes face scrutiny after quake
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.