Iran hunts for sur­vivors as quake kills over 300 near Iraq bor­der

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

TEHRAN — Ira­nian res­cue work­ers dug through rub­ble in a hunt for sur­vivors yes­ter­day af­ter a ma­jor earth­quake struck the Iran-Iraq bor­der, killing more than 300 and in­jur­ing thou­sands.

The 7.3-mag­ni­tude quake hit a bor­der area 30km south­west of Hal­abja in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan at around 21:20 on Novem­ber 12, when many peo­ple would have been at home, the US Ge­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey said.

The worst af­fected ar­eas were in Iran’s west­ern prov­ince of Ker­man­shah, where the coro­ner’s of­fice told state tele­vi­sion that at least 328 peo­ple were dead and an­other 2 350 in­jured.

Across the bor­der in Iraq, where the ar­eas are more sparsely pop­u­lated, the health min­istry said eight peo­ple had died and sev­eral hun­dred been in­jured.

Some Ira­ni­ans spent the night out­doors af­ter flee­ing their homes in the moun­tain­ous cross-bor­der re­gion, hud­dling around fires at dawn as the au­thor­i­ties de­ployed help to af­fected ar­eas.

A woman and her baby were pulled out alive from the rub­ble in the Ira­nian town of Sar-e Pol-e Za­ham, the worst hit in the quake, lo­cal me­dia re­ported.

Of­fi­cials said they were set­ting up re­lief camps but that ac­cess to the ar­eas was not easy.

Iran’s emer­gency ser­vices chief Pir Hos­sein Koo­li­vand said it was “dif­fi­cult to send res­cue teams to the vil­lages be­cause the roads have been cut off . . . there have been land­slides”. UNITED NA­TIONS — UN-backed peace­keep­ers have lost enough guns and am­mu­ni­tion in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa over the past two decades to arm an army, ac­cord­ing to a study by the Small Arms Sur­vey.

The re­search group’s di­rec­tor, Eric Berman, said peace­keep­ers have lost “at least thou­sands of weapons and mil­lions of rounds of am­mu­ni­tion” this cen­tury, of­ten hand­ing them over to lo­cal fight­ers with­out putting up a fight. Losses range from pis­tols and bul­lets to heavy ma­chine guns, mor­tars, re­coil­less guns and grenade launch­ers, which can be mil­i­tary game-chang­ers on the bat­tle­fields of So­ma­lia, Demo­cratic repub­lic of Congo, and Su­dan, Berman said.

“Peace­keep­ers are los­ing arms and am­mu­ni­tion that are go­ing to be used against them and against civil­ians that they’re asked to pro­tect, and pro­long­ing con­flicts that they’re asked to help re­solve,” Berman said.

The 75-page study, called Mak­ing a Tough Job More Dif­fi­cult, iden­ti­fies 20 forces op­er­at­ing un­der the UN, the African Union or some other in­ter­na­tional coali­tion that have lost guns and am­mu­ni­tion from 1993-2017.

Most losses oc­curred in Congo, So­ma­lia, Su­dan, Bu­rundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Mali and the Cen­tral African Repub­lic.

Haiti, Cam­bo­dia, the Is­rael-Syria bor­der and the Balkans have also been af­fected. Some losses were un­avoid­able, the re­port said. Peace­keep­ers can be am­bushed while pa­trolling the “wrong place at the wrong time” or be over­whelmed in a sur­prise at­tack from a su­pe­rior force and have caches plun­dered, Berman said. But in­ci­dents of “less-than-best prac­tice and cor­rup­tion” are also rife, Berman added.

There have been many hushed-up cases of peace­keep­ers hand­ing over weapons to rebels rather than risk a shootout, of fail­ing to guard caches prop­erly, or un­cov­er­ing rebel groups’ ar­se­nals and sell­ing them on the black mar­ket, said Berman.

Aditya Me­hta, a UN peace­keep­ing spokesman, told Al Jazeera that it takes the is­sue “very se­ri­ously” but said the Small Arms Sur­vey re­port over­stated the im­pact of blue hel­met arms losses on tur­bu­lent parts of Africa. “The loss of weapons in peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions are an ex­cep­tion, and the num­ber of weapons lost are in­signif­i­cant, far less than half of one per cent of the to­tal amount of weapons and am­mu­ni­tion in cir­cu­la­tion around con­flict zones such as in Dar­fur and South Su­dan,” he said.

Losses oc­cur in “very chal­leng­ing con­di­tions”, and the UN al­ready works hard to raise stan­dards, he added. Me­hta did not ful­fil Al Jazeera’s re­quest to share the UN’s regis­ter of arms that had gone miss­ing in re­cent years. The Small Arms Sur­vey re­port listed many ex­am­ples of losses.

In May 2000, Zam­bian peace­keep­ers lost more than 500 as­sault ri­fles, ma­chine guns, mor­tars and 45 000 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion when they sur­ren­dered to Sierra Leonean rebels rather than “fight their way out” Berman said.

A Nige­rian peace­keep­ing con­voy sim­i­larly suc­cumbed to a “not over­whelm­ing force” of rebels in in Dar­fur, Su­dan, in March 2010, hand­ing over 55 as­sault ri­fles, ma­chine guns and some 14 000 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion, he added. De­tails on such in­ci­dents are un­clear, Berman said. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, “po­lit­i­cal sen­si­tiv­i­ties and opac­ity in re­port­ing have re­sulted in mis­lead­ing” re­ports of arms losses in of­fi­cial UN doc­u­ments. — AFP

The of­fi­cial IRNA news agency said 30 Red Cross teams had been sent to the quake zone, parts of which had ex­pe­ri­enced power cuts.

Iran’s supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei or­dered the govern­ment and armed forces to mo­bilise “all their means” to help the pop­u­la­tion.

Lo­cal me­dia re­ported hun­dreds of am­bu­lances and dozens of army he­li­copters mo­bilised for res­cue op­er­a­tions in­clud­ing in ru­ral ar­eas.

Sar-e Pol-e Za­hab, an area of some 85 000 peo­ple close to the bor­der, was the worst hit, with at least 236 dead, while the towns of Es­lam­abad and Qasr-e Shirin were also af­fected.

Some 259 000 peo­ple live in the ar­eas around these towns, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est pop­u­la­tion cen­sus.

State tele­vi­sion footage showed tents, blan­kets, and food be­ing dis­trib­uted in ar­eas hit by the quake.

At dawn yes­ter­day in Sar-e Pol-e Za­hab, build­ings stood dis­fig­ured, their for­mer fa­cades ly­ing in rub­ble on crum­pled ve­hi­cles.

In an open space away from the wrecked hous­ing blocks, men and women, some wrapped in blan­kets, hud­dled around a camp fire to keep warm.

In Iraq, the health min­istry said the quake had killed seven peo­ple in the north­ern prov­ince of Su­laimaniyah and one in the prov­ince of Diyala to its south.

More than 500 peo­ple were in­jured in both prov­inces and the nearby prov­ince of Kirkuk. JO­HAN­NES­BURG — One per­son has been ar­rested af­ter a group of church con­gre­gants over­pow­ered, as­saulted and dis­armed a Jo­han­nes­burg Metro Po­lice De­part­ment of­fi­cer.

The at­tack took place on Sun­day just be­fore mid­day, JMPD spokesper­son chief su­per­in­ten­dent Wayne Mi­naar said.

He said the of­fi­cer and his col­league towed an il­le­gally parked car — caus­ing traf­fic con­ges­tion — that be­longed to a mem­ber of a church on Claim Street in Hill­brow.

“From interim in­ves­ti­ga­tions, it is be­lieved that the JMPD of­fi­cer drew his firearm and fired into the air to stop the ri­ot­ing con­gre­gants from ad­vanc­ing to­ward them, but the crowd did not heed the warn­ing but pro­ceeded to at­tack the of­fi­cer.”

Footage posted on Twit­ter showed pan­icked peo­ple flee­ing a build­ing in Su­laimaniyah, as win­dows shat­tered at the mo­ment the quake struck, while im­ages from the nearby town of Dar­bandikhan showed walls and con­crete struc­tures had col­lapsed.

In Dar­bandikhan, of­fi­cials called on res­i­dents to sleep out­side their homes as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure.

In Su­laimaniyah, res­i­dents ran out onto the streets and some dam­age to prop­erty was re­ported, an AFP re­porter there said.

The quake, which struck at a rel­a­tively shal­low depth of 23km, was felt for about 20 sec­onds in Bagh­dad, and for longer in other prov­inces of Iraq, AFP jour­nal­ists said. Iraqi health au­thor­i­ties said they treated dozens of peo­ple in its af­ter­math, most for shock. The area sees fre­quent seis­mic ac­tiv­ity. In 1990, a 7.4-mag­ni­tude quake near the Caspian Sea in north­ern Iran killed 40 000 peo­ple and left 300 000 more in­jured and half a mil­lion home­less. Within sec­onds the quake re­duced dozens of towns and nearly 2 000 vil­lages to rub­ble.

Thir­teen years later, a cat­a­strophic quake struck the an­cient south­east Ira­nian city of Bam, famed for its mud brick build­ings, killing at least 31 000 peo­ple and flat­ten­ing swathes of the city.

Since then, Iran has ex­pe­ri­enced at least two ma­jor quake dis­as­ters, one in 2005 that killed more than 600 and an­other in 2012 that left some 300 dead. — AFP

UN peace­keep­ing arms losses could equip an army: Re­port

Mi­naar said the group over­pow­ered and dis­armed the of­fi­cer “who was beaten and left un­con­scious and had to be rushed to Mil­park Hos­pi­tal”.

An ar­rest was made when the as­sailants went to hand in the of­fi­cer’s firearm at Jo­han­nes­burg Cen­tral Po­lice Sta­tion, he said.

“Upon ar­rival at the sta­tion, one mem­ber of the con­gre­ga­tion was de­tained by the [po­lice] for il­le­gally be­ing in pos­ses­sion of a JMPD of­fi­cer’s firearm.”

Pub­lic Safety Mem­ber of the May­oral Com­mit­tee (MMC) Michael Sun con­demned the at­tack say­ing of­fi­cers were do­ing their job and ex­e­cut­ing the city’s by-laws. “We will not al­low this at­tack on our metro po­lice go un­pros­e­cuted, the cul­prits will have to face the full might of the law,” Sun said.

The sec­ond of­fi­cer was not in­jured. — Sapa

Res­i­dents gather near a dam­aged build­ing fol­low­ing an earth­quake in the town of Dar­bandikhan, near the city of Su­laimaniyah, in the semi-au­ton­o­mous Kur­dis­tan re­gion, Iraq yes­ter­day. Al Jazeera

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