Iranian officials called off rescue operations, saying there was little chance of finding more survivors from the earthquake that shook parts of western Iran on Sunday, killing at least 530 people, state media said on Tuesday.
Survivors, many left homeless by the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that struck villages and towns in a mountainous area bordering Iraq, battled overnight temperatures just above freezing and faced another bleak day on Tuesday in need of food and water.
The death toll of 530, reported by state news agency IRNA, made it Iran’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade. Thousands of people were injured and 30,000 homes damaged. Two whole villages were destroyed.
The quake struck on the Iran-Iraq border, causing most of its damage in Iran despite an epicenter on the Iraq side of the frontier. Iraqi officials said seven people were killed and 325 injured in Iraq, all in the northern Kurdish provinces.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani arrived in the morning in the stricken area in Kermanshah province and promised that the government would “use all its power to resolve the problems in the shortest time”.
Thousands of people huddled in makeshift camps while many others chose to spend a second night in the open, despite low temperatures, because they feared more tremors after some 193 aftershocks, state television said.
A homeless young woman in Sarpol-e Zahab, one of the hardest-hit towns, told state TV that her family was exposed to the night cold because of lack of tents.
“We need help. We need everything. The authorities should speed up their help,” she said.
Television showed rescue workers combing through the rubble of dozens of villages immediately after the quake. But by Tuesday morning Iranian officials said there was no longer any likelihood of finding survivors and called the rescue off.
“The rescue operations in Kermanshah province have ended,” Pir-Hossein Kolivand, head of Iran’s Emergency Medical Services, said.
Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, offered his condolences on Monday to the victims and called on government agencies to do all they could to help.
The Iranian army, the elite Revolutionary Guards and forces of its affiliated Basij militia were dispatched to affected areas on Sunday night.