Residents of the city of Varzaqan sit at the side of a street after an earthquake in northwestern Iran. AP/Kazem Yousefi
Overcrowded hospitals in northwest Iran struggled to cope with thousands of quake victims on Sunday and rescuers raced to reach remote villages after two powerful quakes killed nearly 300 people and injured around 2,600.
About 16,000 people in the quake-hit area have been given emergency shelter, Red Crescent official Mahmoud Mozafar told Mehr news agency.
Iranian lawmaker Mohammad Hassan-Nejad warned that if relief efforts did not speed up, the death toll would swiftly rise.
Thousands huddled in makeshift camps or slept in the street after Saturday’s quakes in fear of more aftershocks, 60 of which had already struck. A lack of tents and other supplies left them exposed to the night chill, one witness told Reuters.
“I saw some people whose entire home was destroyed, and all their livestock killed,” Tahir Sadati, a local photographer, said by telephone. “People need help, they need warm clothes, more tents, blankets and bread.”
The worst damage and most casualties appeared to have been in villages around the towns of Ahar, Varzaghan and Harees, near the city of Tabriz, Iranian media reported.
Tabriz resident Ahmad, 41, told Reuters his cousin living in a village near Ahar was killed and that his body had already been found. “Nobody knows what happened to his wife and two daughters,” aged 4 and 7, Ahmad said.
Abbas Falahi, member of parliament for Ahar and Harees, said people in some villages were “in dire need of food and water”, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported. Officials said rescue efforts had ended by Sunday afternoon.