At least 530 people were killed in Iran ’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade, state news agency IRNA reported today, adding that more than 8,000 others were injured. Officials called off rescue operations, saying there was little chance of finding more survivors from the disaster that hit country’s border region with Iraq.
The Iran government is scrambling to get aid to the worst-hit Kermanshah province, where hundreds of homes were destroyed.
President Hassan Rouhani, visiting the region, said state-built houses suffered more damage, and those responsible would be held accountable. According to the report, Rouhani said that the faults and shortcomings in the construction of these buildings should be investigated.
He pledged the government will follow up on these issues and identify those who are responsible.
“I want to assure those who are suffering that the government has begun to act with all means at its disposal and is scrambling to resolve this problem as quickly as possible,” he said.
Many of the damaged buildings were built during former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad administration, though some of them were completed and handed over to the residents under Rouhani, AP reports.
Survivors struggling to find shelter
Night-time temperatures in Kermanshah province fell close to freezing for the second night in succession, with thousands of people are on the streets because their homes were destroyed.
Ali Gulani, 42, lives in the province’s badly-hit town of Qasr-e-Shirin, and told BBC Persian people were burning crates to try to stay warm.
“We are living in a tent and we don’t have enough food or water. You can hear children crying, it’s too cold. They are holding on to their parents to warm themselves – it’s pretty bad,” he said
Gulani said there were an average of three strong aftershocks an hour, provoking panic.
The mayor of Ezgeleh, a city in Kermanshah, said 80 percent of its buildings had collapsed. Survivors desperately needed tents with elderly people and babies as young as one-year-old sleeping in the cold for two straight nights.
In an interview with state television, Nazar Barani asked people to send fuel, milk, water and food as emergency services were too slow and providing limited provisions.
“People are hungry and thirsty. There is no electricity. Last night I cried when I saw children with no food or shelter,” a local man told ISNA news agency.
Over 200 aftershocks hit Iran
Gen Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards, said that the immediate needs were tents, water and food.
“Newly constructed buildings held up well, but the old houses built with earth were totally destroyed,” he told state TV while visiting the affected region.
The Iranian Red Crescent said many areas lacked water and electricity and that aid supplies were being hampered by roads blocked by landslides. Iranian army helicopters are taking part in the relief effort.
Close to 200 aftershocks have hit the region since the magnitude-7.3 earthquake on Sunday night. It was one of the strongest on earth this year, as well as the deadliest.