Quake victims protest delay of aid

Villagers hit by Tuesday's powerful earthquake in southeastern Iran have blocked roads to protest the delay in receiving aid after spending the night in freezing cold and rain.

    Villagers in the quake-hit area spent the night in the rain

    At least 420 people were killed in the earthquake that struck a remote mountainous region of Iran, turning their mud-brick homes and villages to rubble.


    In the Zarand area of Kerman province near the epicentre of the quake, which measured 6.4 on the Richter scale, villagers were forced to spend the night outdoors without shelter.


    On Wednesday, a group of about 100 villagers in Islamabad used a truck to block a road and try to intercept humanitarian aid as women threw stones at passing cars.


    About 20 men lay down across the road to block the path of Interior Minister Abdolvahed Moussavi Lari's convoy and had to be removed by force, police said.


    Villages were flattened by the force of the quake, the deadliest since December 2003, when more than 31,000 people perished in the ancient city of Bam, 200km away.


    Hospitals overwhelmed


    Hospitals in the region were overwhelmed and officials warned that the toll could rise as rain and blocked roads made it difficult to reach stricken mountain villages.


    Hospitals in the region have been
    overwhelmed with casualties

    Provincial governor Muhammad Ali Karimi said at least 420 people had been killed and 900 injured.


    The head of natural disaster services, Muhammad Javad Fadaie, said there was no "fundamental problem" with the humanitarian and rescue work but conceded there was a lack of tents.




    Others who had escaped when their mud-brick homes collapsed, sat among the debris, ankle deep in mud, wrapped in blankets handed out by rescue workers, soldiers and volunteers.


    Soldiers from the Revolutionary Guard pulled two women alive from the rubble in an isolated mountain village in southeastern Iran, more than 24 hours after the earthquake struck. 


    Iranians lost their homes and
    families in Tuesday's earthquake

    In Houdkan village, 25-year-old Zahra Hosseini emerged smiling but complaining of back pains from the mess of bricks and mud that had been her home.


    Locals said another woman, 18-year-old Zahra Mirzai, had also been rescued earlier on Wednesday after a passerby heard her cries for help.


    Both were taken by ambulance to the nearby town of Zarand.


    The rescues partly lifted the gloom in Houdkan, a village that had a population of about 500, where soldiers say they have pulled nearly 150 bodies from the rubble.


    "We think the death toll will climb to more than 500 ... once we have gained access to the villages with the use of helicopters," said Iraj Sharifi, head of the Kerman University hospital.


    International aid


    Karimi said the authorities had learned from the Bam earthquake and this time the Islamic republic would not need international aid. 


    "We think the death toll will climb to more than 500 ... once we have gained access to the villages with the use of helicopters"

    Iraj Sharifi, head of
    Kerman University hospital

    Officials accused foreign governments of failing to deliver on aid pledges made in the aftermath of the Bam quake.


    Neighbouring Turkey, which like Iran has long experienced deadly earthquakes, offered to provide aid but was turned down, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.


    President Pervez Musharraf of neighbouring Pakistan also offered aid.


    Several helicopters were sent to the scene, and the government mobilised two battalions of troops to help in the rescue effort, while residents were urged to stay outdoors amid 20 aftershocks.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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