Iran Ceases Rescue Operations after Powerful Earthquake Kills at Least 530 People
By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Iranian officials called off rescue operations Tuesday, following a massive earthquake on Sunday that killed at least 530 people in western Iran. Officials said there was little chance of finding more survivors, Reuters reported.
Iranian state television said that thousands were huddling in makeshift camps, while many others spent a second night outdoors for fear of more tremors. The area was rocked by 193 aftershocks between Sunday and Monday.
“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 on Tuesday in need of food and water,” Reuters said. .
Iran’s Red Crescent Society sent staff and volunteers to assist in rescue and relief operations, but they told the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news agency that "chances of survival are slim" for those still buried in the ruins.
Most Homes Have Been Destroyed in Kermanshah Province
Power outages were reported across western Iran, which is home to some of the country’s poorest regions.
"It is total chaos here, most homes are destroyed in Kermanshah and people are stuck under bricks and debris," a Red Crescent Society volunteer told Al-Jazeera. As many as 16,000 people are in need of immediate assistance, the aid group noted.
The Red Crescent has set up more than 5,000 tents to provide emergency shelter. In addition, the Turkish Red Crescent was reported to be sending 3,000 tents and heaters as well as 10,000 beds and blankets.
Residents of the town of Sarpol-e-Zahab in Iran’s Kermanshah province said there was no electricity or water and telephone and mobile phone service was erratic. The hospital in Sarpol-e-Zahab was heavily damaged. The army set up field hospitals, and many of the injured were moved to other cities, including Tehran, the Associated Press reported.
There are fears that more victims could be in the rubble in Sarpol-e-Zahab and other rural villages of Kermanshah province. Mohammad Ali Monshizadeh, a spokesman for the provincial forensic department, told AP that “possibly as many as 150 people were buried by family members after the earthquake in remote villages who had not been counted in the official death toll.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Kermanshah on Tuesday and promised that the government “will use all its power to resolve the problems in the shortest time.”
“This was a pain for all Iranians,” Rouhani said, according to AP. “Representing the nation of Iran, I offer my condolences to the people of Kermanshah, and tell them that all of us are behind Kermanshah.”
AP added that Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif offered his thanks to foreign countries offering to help. But he wrote on Twitter: “For now, we are able to manage with our own resources.”