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Armenian PM extends condolences to First Vice-President of Iran on devastating quake
15 November 2017, 12:40 | Rufus Hill
Iran Weightlifter Auctions Gold Medal for Earthquake Victims
SARPOL-E-ZAHAB, Iran - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered an investigation Tuesday into why government housing built by his hard-line predecessor collapsed while others withstood a powerful natural disaster near the border with Iraq that killed more than 530 people. In September Iran's government, run largely by Shia clerics, sent security forces into Sunni Kurdish towns to suppress demonstrations expressing support for an independence vote in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The epicentre lay 30km (18 miles) south of Halabja in Iraq, but nearly all of the casualties occurred in Iran's Kurdish heartland, in the country's marginalised north-west.
His plan is to donate the proceeds to families affected by the 7.3-magnitude tremor that shook Iran this weekend, according to PressTV.
One of the region's worst quakes struck Bam in Iran in 2003 and killed at least 31,000 people.
Nine people were killed in Iraq and 550 were injured, all in the country's northern, semiautonomous Kurdish region, according to the United Nations. Iran's Kermanshah province, where most of the damage occurred, is home to both Shia and Sunni Muslims.
Footage from Sarpol-e Zahab, an Iranian town of 35,000 close to the Iraqi border, shows entire neighbourhoods reduced to rubble.
Iran's top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, offered his condolences on Monday and called on government agencies to do all they could to help.
Hospitals in nearby provinces took in numerous injured, state television said, airing footage of survivors waiting to be treated. Hundreds of critically injured people were dispatched to hospitals in Tehran.
Ali Gulani, 42, lives in the province's badly-hit town of Qasr-e-Shirin, and told BBC Persian people were burning crates to try to stay warm.
Iran's Red Crescent said emergency shelter had been provided for thousands of homeless people, but a lack of water and electricity as well as blocked roads in some areas hindered aid supply efforts.
Houses in Iranian villages are often made of concrete blocks or mudbrick that can crumble and collapse in a strong quake.
Rescuers used backhoes and other heavy equipment to dig through toppled buildings in Sarpol-e-Zahab, home to more than half of the dead.
"Search operations are reaching their end, with teams constantly monitoring the situation to know if there are still people to extract from the rubble", Behnam Saidi, the spokesman for a crisis unit set up to handle the response to the quake, told state television.
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