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Earthquake in Iran: aid struggles to reach remote areas

Ⓒ AFP – ATTA KENARE – | Photo taken on November 15, 2017 of an Iranian girl near the rubble of her house in Kouik (northwest) after the November 12 earthquake

Public aid to the victims of the earthquake that hit western Iran this weekend is struggling to reach far-off places, where the Iranian authorities on Wednesday ordered the continuation of search operations for potential survivors.

According to the latest official figures, the magnitude 7.3 earthquake killed 432 people in Iran, all in Kermanshah province, and eight in Iraq. In total, authorities in both countries counted nearly 8,200 injured.

In Kouik, a group of villages about fifteen kilometers north of Sar-e Pol-e Zahab, the big city most affected by the earthquake on Sunday evening, the help given to the inhabitants on Wednesday morning was mainly the fact of individuals, according to AFP journalists on the spot.

Apart from a convoy of about 20 ambulances coming to bring drugs and some teams from the Red Crescent bringing tents, the assistance (water, food, blankets) in this area of ​​the Kermanshah province bordering Iraq was essentially distributed by civilians with their own vehicles.

Some from the neighboring province of Kurdistan have traveled more than 100 kilometers.

“God bless them!” Said his benefactors Abdol Gaderi, 45, but “we need running water, electricity, and we need mobile toilets”.

Ⓒ AFP – ATTA KENARE – | Photo taken on November 15, 2017 showing a digger removing rubble from destroyed buildings in the village of Kouik (northwest) after the November 12 earthquake

In the middle of ruins in these villages of farmers and peasants shaved by the earthquake more than 50%, the inhabitants say they fear epidemics because of the corpses of animals still under the rubble.

On Wednesday morning, the government ordered the search for possible survivors to ensure that no one remains under the rubble.

– Burials –

But in the villages crossed by the AFP, the time is more clearing. In Kouik Hassan, it is a dead cow that a shovel has extracted from the ruins.

In Ghaleh Bahadori, a locality, about thirty tents of the Red Crescent shelter victims. “This is not enough,” said Tooraj Mohammadi, a local resident in his twenties, referring to the “130 families” in the village, most of whom have no more houses.

Ⓒ AFP – ATTA KENARE – | Photo taken on November 15, 2017 showing Iranians receiving humanitarian aid in the village of Kouik (north-west) after the November 12 earthquake

“Here, there were 30 dead, we buried them ourselves in coordination with the gendarmerie,” he says.

In Iran alone, the balance of the damage caused by the disaster would amount to 26,000 billion Iranian rials, or about 6.3 billion US dollars (5.3 billion euros), according to a first estimate given to the agency. Isna press by Mojtaba Nikkerdar, the deputy governor of Kermanshah province.

This corresponds to about 1.5% of the national GDP forecast by the International Monetary Fund for 2017.

In total, about 30,000 homes were destroyed or damaged, according to the authorities.

– ‘Corruption’ –

Ⓒ AFP – Sabrina BLANCHARD – | Map showing the epicenter of the November 12, 2017 earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Iran-Iraq border

The extensive damage to Sar-e Pol-e Zahab by the Maskan-e Mehr buildings, a national low-cost housing program under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013), attracted the attention of the Iranian media and aroused indignation on social networks.

“The fact that houses built by individuals […] are intact while buildings erected by the state are seriously damaged shows that there has been corruption,” said President Hassan Rohani, according to his official website.

Speaking the day before on the same subject, Mr. Rohani had said that it was necessary to “look for the guilty parties and present them to the population”.

In front of the deputies, the Minister of the Interior, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli drew up Wednesday morning a report of the action of the State in the affected zones.

“We have sent 36,000 tents and we have to send another 10,000” to allow all families who fear a possible aftershock to sleep outside her home, he said, according to Isna news agency.

While residents, in Kouik in particular, complain of theft or embezzlement of some of the emergency aid by people from outside the region, the minister said there was “no particular problem of public security “in the regions affected by the earthquake.

In the cabinet, the government approved a series of interest-free loans and donations to households damaged at home to replace their destroyed furniture or equipment.

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