Iranian response to quakes slammed

Iran’s government faced criticism yesterday over its response to two earthquakes that killed 306 people with complaints of a lack of tents.

There was also criticism of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s decision to go ahead with an overseas trip.

Although on Sunday — less than 24 hours after disaster struck — officials announced search and rescue operations had finished and all survivors had been freed from the rubble, some locals expressed disbelief that authorities could have reached the most remote villages so soon.

“I know the area well. There are some regions where there are villages that you can’t even reach by car,” one doctor in the city of Tabriz told Reuters yesterday. “It’s not possible for them to have finished so soon.” The doctor said he had worked for 24 hours non-stop, treating patients.

“In the first hours after the quake, it was ordinary people and volunteers in their own cars going to the affected areas,” the doctor said. “It was more ordinary people helping out than official crisis staff.”

Members of parliament representing the affected areas complained about a shortage of tents, the parliamentary news agency ICANA said.

“The crisis management headquarters must take broader steps to alleviate these concerns,” said speaker Ali Larijani, a frequent critic of Ahmadinejad and possible candidate to succeed him in elections next year.

Newspaper Asr-e Iran reported that a full 24 hours after the earthquake, some villages had not yet been visited by relief teams.

“[Residents] say that most of the villages have been destroyed and still no tents have been sent, nor has any help been sent for the victims,” the paper said.

The earthquakes, with magnitudes of 6.4 and 6.3, struck East Azerbaijan province on Saturday afternoon, flattening villages and injuring thousands.

The first situation report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs quoted Iranian officials as saying that up to 17,000 people had been displaced and were in need of shelter.

Iranian officials said the emergency response was rapid.


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