Frantic rescue effort under way at Iraq shrine hit by landslide

Operation continues to save people trapped under the rubble with at least four dead at the Qattarat al-Imam Ali shrine in Karbala province.

Iraqi rescue workers search for survivors under shrine
Three children were rescued following Saturday's disaster but an unknown number of people are buried under the debris [Mohammed Sawaf/AFP]

Iraqi rescue workers desperately searched for survivors buried under rubble after a landslide hit a Shia shrine, killing at least four people.

The official Iraqi news agency INA, citing the civil defence service, said on Sunday that four bodies were recovered from the debris at the Qattarat al-Imam Ali shrine in Karbala province, central Iraq.

“We have found four bodies, including of a woman,” civil defence official Abdelrahman Jawdat said.

Between six and eight pilgrims are trapped in the shrine, civil defence spokesman Nawas Sabah Shaker said.

Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from the capital Baghdad, said many worshippers had gathered at the shrine during the Shia Muslim holy month of Muharram.

“Heavy machinery was brought to the scene including bulldozers and diggers,” he said. “Family members are standing by, waiting for any news about their loved ones.”

Three children were rescued following Saturday’s disaster, emergency services said, adding they were in “good condition” and being monitored at a hospital.

(Al Jazeera)

‘Mobilise all efforts’

Rescue teams working through the night were able to provide oxygen supplies as well as food and water to some of those trapped through gaps in the rubble, INA reported.

Iraq’s President Barham Saleh called on the “heroic” rescue workers to “mobilise all efforts to save the trapped people”.

Emergency responders said earlier that they were maintaining verbal contact with the victims “to reassure them”.

The landslide on Saturday afternoon hit the shrine located in a natural depression about 25km (15 miles) west of the Shia holy city of Karbala.

The rocks and sand started sliding because of the “saturation of the earthen embankment adjacent to the shrine”, the civil defence service said.

“This led to the collapse of about 30 percent of the area of the building, which measures about 100 square metres.”

People wait as Iraqi rescue workers search for survivors after shrine collapse
People wait as Iraqi rescue workers search for survivors after the deadly landslide [Mohammed Sawaf/AFP]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies