Iran natural disaster survivors plead for help as toll rises

Quake Damages 8 Cities, 526 Villages in Western Iranian Province: Official

SARPOL-E-ZAHAB, Iran - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered an investigation Tuesday into why government housing built by his hard-line predecessor collapsed while others withstood a powerful natural disaster near the border with Iraq that killed more than 530 people.

The quake hit 19 miles from the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja along a 930-mile fault line that runs between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates.

Mohammad-Ali Monshizadeh, an official from Kermanshah province, told the Irna state news agency: "Up to now, we have issued 430 death certificates. but an estimated number of 100 to 150 more people have been buried in quake-stricken villages and towns without permission. which raises the overall death toll to between 530 to 580 in Kermanshah".

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to visit there Tuesday to assess damage and oversee rescue work.

The region had experienced more than 100 aftershocks within the 24 hours after the quake had hit. Two whole villages were destroyed.

"The movement of different layers under the earth has muddied the water supply in the city and so we can't provide water until the mud settles", said the governor of Qasr-e Shirin, Faramarz Akbari.


Under the plan dubbed Mehr, or "kindness" in Farsi, some 2 million units were built in Iran, including hundreds in Sarpol-e Zahab.

Nine people were killed in Iraq and 550 were injured, all in the country's northern, semiautonomous Kurdish region, according to the United Nations. "We had to leave without being able to help them". The casualties and damage were limited to only Iran and Iraq, though. "The rescue operations in Kermanshah province have ended", said the head of Iran's Emergency Medical Services Pir-Hossein Kolivand.

The Iranian Red Crescent Society has deployed 16 response teams, 31 sniffer dog teams, 41 debris removing teams, 48 emergency sheltering teams and nine emergency treatment teams in the hardest-hit areas. "There is no electricity".

Houses in Iranian villages are often made of concrete blocks or mudbrick that can crumble and collapse in a strong quake.

In Sarpol-e Zahab, he asked: "Who is to be blamed for this?"

So far, rescue operation and assessment is being conducted on the ground and relief items including tents, ground sheets, blankets, kitchen sets, and food items such as canned food and rice are being distributed among the affected people and the people staying outdoor, scaring of getting back to their houses. "I don't know whether they are dead or alive", Rojan Meshkat, 38, in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj told Reuters by telephone.

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