Iran Concludes Rescue Operations, Thousands of Survivors Battle Cold

AMMAN — Rescue operations have ended in areas of Iran hit by a powerful earthquake that killed at least 450 people and injured thousands, state television reported on Tuesday.

The TV also reported that thousands of survivors, who battled in the cold, are still in need of food and water .

"The rescue operations in the (western) Kermanshah province have ended," Pir-Hossein Kolivand, head of Iran’s Emergency Medical Services, said on state TV.

Sunday's 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck villages and towns in the mountainous area of Kermanshah province that borders Iraq while many people were at home asleep. At least 14 provinces in Iran were affected. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in the morning in the earthquake-stricken area in Kermanshah and promised that the government "will use all its power to resolve the problems in the shortest time".

State television said thousands were huddling in makeshift camps, while many others spent a second night in the open for fear of more tremors after some 193 aftershocks.

Television also showed footage of rescue workers frantically combing through the rubble of dozens of villages immediately after the quake. But Iranian officials said the chances of finding any more survivors were extremely low.

Hospitals in nearby provinces took in many of the injured, state television said, airing footage of survivors waiting to be treated. Hundreds of critically injured people were dispatched to hospitals in Tehran. Local authorities said traffic chaos on roads, caused by people from nearby provinces who were rushing to help, further hampered the flow of aid.

More than 30,000 houses in the area were damaged and at least two villages were completely destroyed, Iranian authorities said. Houses in Iranian villages are often made of concrete blocks or mud brick that can crumble and collapse in a strong quake. Some people are angry that among the collapsed buildings were houses that the government has built in recent years under its affordable housing program.

The Iranian Cabinet in a statement on Monday declared Nov. 14 (Tuesday), a day of public mourning for the victims of the Sunday devastating earthquake, Iran's state-run news agency, IRNA reported.

(Petra)

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