Iran calls off rescue ops, turns to quake relief

Damaged buildings in Sarpol-e Zahab, one of the hardest-hit towns, in Iran's Kermanshah province following Sunday's earthquake. At least 14 provinces were affected by the quake, which destroyed two whole villages, damaged 30,000 houses and left more
Damaged buildings in Sarpol-e Zahab, one of the hardest-hit towns, in Iran's Kermanshah province following Sunday's earthquake. At least 14 provinces were affected by the quake, which destroyed two whole villages, damaged 30,000 houses and left more than 8,000 people injured.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Thousands in need of food, water, shelter; President vows govt action to resolve issues

ANKARA • Iranian officials said there was little chance of finding more survivors from the earthquake that shook parts of western Iran on Sunday, killing at least 530 people, and rescue operations have now been called off, state television said yesterday.

Survivors, many left homeless by the 7.3-magnitude earthquake that struck villages and towns in a mountainous area bordering Iraq, battled overnight temperatures just above freezing and faced another bleak day yesterday in need of food and water, reported Reuters.

President Hassan Rouhani arrived in the morning in the stricken Kermanshah province and promised that the government would "use all its power to resolve the problems in the shortest time".

At least 14 provinces in Iran were affected by the quake, which destroyed two whole villages, damaged 30,000 houses and left more than 8,000 people injured. In neighbouring Iraq, at least eight people were killed and more than 400 injured.

Thousands of people huddled in makeshift camps while many others chose to spend a second night in the open despite low temperatures, because they feared more tremors after some 193 aftershocks, Iran state television said.

A homeless young woman in Sarpol-e Zahab, one of the hardest-hit towns, told state TV that her family was exposed to the night cold because of lack of tents. "We need help. We need everything. The authorities should speed up their help," she said.

Television showed rescue workers combing through the rubble of dozens of villages immediately after the quake. But Iranian officials said chances of finding any more survivors were remote.

  • POWERFUL TEMBLOR

  • 7.3

    Magnitude of earthquake that hit western Iran on Sunday.

    193

    Number of aftershocks felt by Monday night, giving rise to fears of another big quake.

    530

    Number of people killed at the time rescue operations were called off yesterday.

"The rescue operations in Kermanshah province have ended," said Mr Pir-Hossein Kolivand, head of Iran's Emergency Medical Services.

Iran's top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, offered his condolences on Monday and called on government agencies to do all they could to help.

The Iranian army, the elite Revolutionary Guards and its affiliated Basij militia forces were dispatched to affected areas on Sunday night.

Hospitals in nearby provinces took in many of the injured, state television said, airing footage of survivors waiting to be treated. Hundreds of critically injured people were dispatched to hospitals in Teheran.

Iran's Red Crescent said emergency shelter had been provided for thousands of homeless people, but a lack of water and electricity as well as blocked roads in some areas hindered aid supply efforts.

A local man told Isna news agency that "people are hungry and thirsty". "There is no electricity. Last night I cried when I saw children with no food or shelter."

Some people were angry that among the collapsed buildings were houses that the government has built in recent years under its affordable housing programme.

On Monday, Iranian officials said they were setting up relief camps for the displaced and that 22,000 tents, 52,000 blankets and tonnes of food and water had been distributed, reported Agence France-Presse.

Singapore Red Cross will contribute US$20,000 (S$27,000) each to Iran and Iraq as humanitarian aid in the first instance, according to a press statement issued yesterday. The contribution will enable the distribution of relief supplies, including food and shelter, and first aid during the emergency phase.

Singapore Red Cross has a team of volunteers on standby to support post-disaster relief efforts, which will be activated should the need arise, the statement said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 15, 2017, with the headline 'Iran calls off rescue ops, turns to quake relief'. Print Edition | Subscribe