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Iran quake survivors complain of slow aid effort, battle freezing cold

From Reuters - November 14, 2017

ANKARA (Reuters) - Exhausted and exposed to freezing cold, survivors of a weekend earthquake in western Iran begged authorities for food and shelter on Tuesday, saying aid was slow to reach them.

Iranian officials called off rescue operations earlier inthe day on the grounds that there was little chance of finding more survivors from the quake, which killed at least 530 people and injured thousands of others. It was Irans deadliest earthquake in more than a decade.

Survivors, many left homeless by Sundays 7.3 magnitude quake that struck villages and towns in Kermansheh province along the mountainous border with Iraq, struggled through another bleak day on Tuesday in need of food, water and shelter.

Iran has so far 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.

We are hungry. We are cold. We are homeless. We are alone in this world, a weeping Maryam Ahang, who lost 10 members of her family in the hardest hit town of Sarpol-e Zahab, told Reuters by telephone.

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.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged state agencies on Tuesday to speed up aid efforts. President Hassan Rouhani paid a visit to the stricken region, promising to resolve the problems in the shortest time.

Thousands of people huddled in makeshift camps while many others chose to spend another cold night in the open because they feared more tremors after some 230 aftershocks.

In some areas, no building was left standing and those that were had been deserted for fear they could come crashing down at any moment. Houses in impoverished Iranian villages are often made of concrete blocks or mudbrick that can quickly crumble and collapse in a strong quake.

State television aired footage of weeping villagers carrying away bodies wrapped in bloodied blankets and bed sheets and scrabbling with their bare hands through rubble in search of friends and relatives.

It was my cousins birthday ... All the relatives were there...like 50 people. But now almost all are dead, Reza, who refused to give his full name, told Reuters from Sarpol-e Zahab town. He lost 34 members of his family on Sunday.

We spent two nights in the cold. Where is the aid?

LACK OF WATER, ELECTRICITY, ROADS BLOCKED

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