Hundreds of villages in Iran were flattened by an earthquake that occurred yesterday in the northwest. Today, the country wrapped up rescue efforts to save the people who were affected by the incident. Officials came up with a new toll of 1,380 injured and 227 dead in the incident.
Moustafa Mohammad Najjar, Iranian Interior Minister, told state television that rescue and search operations were officially stopped. He added that the government was now committed to ensuring the survivors’ needs in terms of food and shelter were going to be handled. He further conveyed the newer and more precise toll than the one provided by his ministry earlier. Meanwhile, local officials were verifying information that was gathered initially during the first hectic hours after the disaster occurred yesterday.
According to the United States Geological Survey, the first earthquake had registered on the moment magnitude scale at a strong 6.4. The US Geological Survey is used to monitor international seismic activity. The second, registered at 6.3, followed about 11 minutes later.
The largest city in the area, Tabriz, and surrounding towns were lucky to experience relatively minor damage. However, a large number of outlying villages which are mainly made of weaker materials like concrete bricks and mud were decimated.
The Interior Minister said that out of the 600 villages found in the zone, about half of them were destroyed or damaged. He added that the President had given orders for the reconstruction of the homes to begin. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said it was important for home construction to be started immediately to prevent locals from exposure to harsh winter conditions which normally occur in the region towards the end of the year.
The earthquakes left homeless an estimated 16,000 people. Roads in the area were seen to be congested with a wide range of emergency vehicles including ambulances. At the same time, Red Crescent trucks ferrying tents were seen plying the route.
A highlight by rapid rescue operation showed village residents knew each other quite well. Though the buildings were small, they knew exactly where to look. All the same, there were many tragedy stories.
In the village of Mirza Ali Kandi, a 13 yea-old girl (by the name of Zeinab) outside a Red Crescent tent told AFP her experience during the earthquake. She said she saw her 16 year-old sister and 8 year-old brother die in front of her eyes.
Zeinab said she was outside their home playing when the first quake hit. She ran inside the house to look for her brother only to see him under a huge a pile of rubble. She tried to get him out of the rubble in vain. During her rescue efforts, she heard her sister scream. When she turned, she saw her sister had a big stone on her head and this is when she decided to run outside their home. She continued by adding that she wished she was in the same predicament as her brother and sister. In conclusion, she said other people who experienced the disaster were more fortunate. There were other horror stories being told by survivors who were able to coherently recount what happened during the disaster.