Iranian President Hassan Rouhani traveled Tuesday to the areas worst hit by Sunday’s devastating earthquake, where some residents say they are struggling to cope without basic necessities.
At least 452 people were killed and thousands injured after a powerful 7.3-magnitude quake struck in the remote border area between Iran and Iraq. The earthquake is the deadliest of the year, eclipsing the one that hit Mexico City in September, and was felt as far away as Turkey and Pakistan.
“There has been no help yet, neither food nor water, no clothing, no tents, there is nothing,” said one resident in Kermanshah province in a video posted by the state-run Iran Newspaper. Footage showed him in a street surrounded by rubble from collapsed buildings.
“There are no facilities yet. We’ve slept outside since last night. This is the condition of our homes. Very little has arrived, just a bit of water. Our electricity, water, gas, phone lines are out, everything is completely out, the whole city has been destroyed, it is wrecked.”
President Rouhani arrived in Kermanshah province to oversee rescue work on Tuesday, Iranian state TV reported. The country’s interior and health ministers are already there to supervise rescue operations, it added.
“I would like to tell all victims in the earthquake that the government has been making every effort – and will make every effort in the shortest time possible – to solve the problem of housing people temporarily, and will help also launch reconstruction efforts,” Rouhani told reporters.
Relief operations ‘could take months’
Search and rescue operations are almost complete while relief operations could take months, Mansoureh Bagheri, director of international operations at the Iranian Red Crescent told CNN on Tuesday.
More than 500 villages in the region suffered damage, said Bagheri. Many of the villages affected by quake are very remote and hard to reach.
“The priority now is for emergency sheltering and food,” Bagheri said. She estimated that 70,000 people could be affected by the earthquake, but said the numbers would be confirmed once they register all of those in need of help.
The Iranian Red Crescent Society has deployed 16 response teams, 31 sniffer dog teams, 41 debris removing teams, 48 emergency sheltering teams and 9 emergency treatment teams to the hardest-hit areas, according to a statement posted on its website, Tuesday.
Pleas for help
Ahoora Niazi, who lives in Sarpol-e Zahab in Kermanshah province, filmed scenes of ruin and posted the videos to Instagram. They included a desperate plea: “Please don’t stop helping. We need water, we need food, like bread, and we need blankets,” the narration on one video says.
“The weather is turning colder now. No one has anything to keep warm, not even tents. Please help us. I plead with the people of Iran for help.”
Efforts are now being made to transfer the wounded to the capital Tehran for emergency treatment, reported Press TV. At least 43 ambulances, four ambulance buses, and 130 emergency technicians have been made available to assist in the emergency transfer of patients, said the report.
Across the capital, Iranians have been lining up to donate blood, state TV reported after an appeal from hospitals in Kermanshah for all blood groups, but especially for type O, to treat the victims.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard was reportedly traveling to the affected areas to help with the rescue efforts, according to Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency.
The earthquake hit late Sunday night with the epicenter in a rural area on the Iranian side of the border, just south of the Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the US Geological Survey, which tracks earthquake activity around the world.
The quake was at a depth of 23 km (just over 14 miles), which is considered shallow, according to the organization.
Iran: We don’t need help
The country’s foreign minister tweeted his country’s gratitude for “global expressions of sympathy and offers of assistance,” but said that Iran didn’t need outside help to deal with the crisis.
“Heartbreaking images from the earthquake damage and loss of life in Kermanshah (and in Iraq),” Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran Javad Zarif wrote on the social media platform.
“We are grateful for global expressions of sympathy and offers of assistance. For now, we can manage with our own resources. Many thanks for all offers and we will keep you posted.”
In Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, four people were killed in Darbandikhan, where a dam was hit by falling rocks. Rahman Shikhani, the head of the Darbandikhan Dam, told CNN that cracks were spotted in the upper part of the structure but there was no water leakage.
The quake killed at least 452 people – 445 in Iran – when it struck near the Iran-Iraq border late Sunday. A further 7,100 were injured in Iran, along with at least 535 across the border in Kurdish Iraq.
Iran sits on a major fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian plates and has experienced a number of earthquakes in the past.
The deadliest this century occurred in 2003 when a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck the southeastern city of Bam, killing some 26,000 people.
CNN’s Shirzad Bozorgmehr, James Masters, Mohammad Jambaz, Paul Murphy and Artemis Moshtaghian contributed to this report.