Reuters: Forlorn villagers picked through the ruins of their broken homes on Thursday, looking for belongings to salvage from the wreckage of Tuesday’s earthquake in southeastern Iran in which at least 549 people died. Officials said the death toll would climb as more corpses were uncovered. Some 220 of the roughly 900 injured were in a critical condition. Reuters
By Parisa Hafezi
DAHOUYEH, Iran – Forlorn villagers picked through the ruins of their broken homes on Thursday, looking for belongings to salvage from the wreckage of Tuesday’s earthquake in southeastern Iran in which at least 549 people died.
Officials said the death toll would climb as more corpses were uncovered. Some 220 of the roughly 900 injured were in a critical condition.
In Dahouyeh village, close to the epicentre of the 6.4 magnitude tremor in the southeastern Kerman province, the search for survivors has been abandoned.
“I’m trying to pick out the belongings which aren’t too damaged and put them in the tent they have given me,” said Mashallah Arabpour, 64. He lost 13 members of his family in the tremor, including two daughters and three grandchildren.
Nearby another man carried away a cracked mirror rescued from the mound of mud that used to be his home.
Locals said scores had died when the roof of a small religious centre collapsed during early morning prayers. The gold dome of the village mosque remained standing although all around was laid to waste.
Iran’s government has faced angry complaints from many villagers that aid was slow arriving.
Locals said the first tents to arrive in Dahouyeh were sent by people in Bam, a desert citadel city also in Kerman province razed by an earthquake 14 months ago, killing 31,000 people.
“We know your pain,” read a banner hung next to three tents donated by Bam residents.
Most of Dahouyeh’s survivors have been resettled to a tent village about 1.5 km (1 mile) away. The collection of about 25 white canvas tents were covered in plastic sheeting to protect them from the almost constant rain and chilling wind.
“They have given us tents but we are 12 people to a tent,” complained Davoud Arabpour, 54, who wore shoes but no socks after being forced to abandon his home in haste.
“Since the quake happened we’ve had no warm food. We don’t have enough blankets, medicine, water or heater fuel,” he said.
Iran has accepted some international help but says it can cope with the disaster largely unaided.
On Wednesday it rebuffed an offer of aid from arch-foe Washington, which accuses Tehran of sponsoring terrorism and building atomic arms, U.S. officials said.
International aid workers said that despite initial difficulties reaching isolated mountain villages, the relief effort had gone well.
“The performance of the Iranian Red Crescent was very good considering that the affected area is mountainous and it was raining and snowing all the time and roads were blocked,” said Stephane Bonduelle, Red Cross programme coordinator for Bam.
“Yesterday, already 85 percent of the victims had received shelter and it seems the first needs are now covered,” he said.
He said 15,000 tents, 50,000 blankets as well as kerosene heaters, generators, a mobile clinic, food and water had made it to the affected area.
But the relief could not compensate Mohammad Reza Ghiyasi for his double personal tragedy.
“I lost my daughter and wife in the Bam earthquake and then I came to live here. Then the ground shook again and now I’ve lost my son,” he said.