“We are hungry. We are cold. We are homeless. We are alone in this world,” said an earthquake survivor from the town of Sarpol e Zahab, one of the hardest hit towns.
The magnitude 7.3 earthquake killed at least 530 people and injured thousands more. It was Iran’s deadliest earthquake in more than a decade. On the Iraq side of the frontier, nine people were killed and over 550 injured, all in the northern Kurdish provinces.
Maryam Ahang, who lost 10 members of her family, said through her tears, “My home is now a pile of mud and broken tiles. I slept in the park last night. It is cold, and I am scared.”
Reza, also from Sarpol e Zahab, said, “It was my cousin’s birthday … All the relatives were there … like 50 people. But now almost all are dead.” He lost 34 members of his family on Sunday.
Iranian officials called off rescue operations, saying there was little chance of finding more survivors from the quake. Meanwhile, survivors struggled through another day without food, water or shelter.
Reza asked, “We spent two nights in the cold. Where is the aid?”
So far, Iran has declined offers of foreign assistance to deal with the aftermath of the tremor, which officials said damaged 30,000 homes and completely destroyed two villages.
The few buildings left standing after the quake have been deserted, as they may come crashing down at any time. The homes in these property-stricken Iranian villages are usually made of concrete blocks or mud-brick that can crumble and collapse during a quake.
Footage of villagers carrying bodies wrapped in bloodied blankets, or digging through rubble with their bare hands was shown on state television. The footage also showed rescue workers combing through the rubble of dozens of villages immediately after the quake, but by Tuesday Iranian officials called off the search.
State television reported that hospitals in nearby provinces took in many of the injured, and that hundreds of critically injured were dispatched to hospitals in Tehran.
Iran’s Red Crescent said that a lack of electricity and water, as well as blocked roads, hindered aid supply efforts.
“People in some villages are still in dire need of food, water and shelter,” said Faramraz Akbari, governor of Qasr e Shirin county in Kermanshah province.
Clusters of tents around Sarpol e Zahab were shown on State TV. These tents are housing two or three families who gather around bonfires trying to keep warm.
”It is cold. My children are freezing. We have water and food but no tent. The quake did not kill us, but the cold weather will kill us,” one woman said.
The mayor of Ezgeleh said that 80 percent of its buildings had collapsed. Survivors desperately need tents. Infants and elderly people have been sleeping in the cold for two straight nights.
“People are hungry and thirsty,” a local man told ISNA news agency. “There is no electricity. Last night I cried when I saw children with no food or shelter.”
Iran has suffered several devastating earthquakes in recent years, as it is crisscrossed by major geological fault lines. In 2003 a 6.6 earthquake reduced the historic city of Bam to dust, and killed approximately 31,000 people.