Aftershocks Rattle Region, Relief Worker Killed
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Aftershocks rumbled through northern Iran on Wednesday, shaking buildings and killing a relief worker who was trying to dig out bodies buried under debris by last week’s earthquake.
Bad weather hampered rescue efforts and was blamed for the crash of a relief helicopter with 14 people on board that hit a mountain in Gilan province. One person died and six others were reported seriously injured.
Tens of thousands of people took shelter in tent cities set up with the help of foreign volunteers. About a half-million people were left homeless by Thursday’s quake, which registered 7.3 to 7.7 on the Richter scale.
Officials at the Red Crescent, the Moslem equivalent of the Red Cross, said they counted 40,000 dead and 60,000 injured. Government officials earlier said 50,000 people died and 200,000 were injured.
A Red Cross official said Tuesday the death toll could reach 70,000.
More than 205 people hurt in the quake died of their injuries Wednesday in hospitals in Zanjan province, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
IRNA said Mohammad Hossein Eftekhari, a Parliament deputy from Rudbar, a city in Gilan, was killed in the crash of the Chinook helicopter near Kelishom, 100 miles northwest of Tehran. The pilot suffered severe burns, a passenger broke his back and four others suffered serious injuries, IRNA said.
In Jirandeh, a man and a woman were rescued on Tuesday, and two other people were found alive in Vieh the same day, IRNA reported Wednesday.
Meanwhile, IRNA said a 19-year-old volunteer died Wednesday in Rudbar. A wall collapsed on Iraj Amjadian, a student at the police academy, when a mild quake shook the city as he and other volunteers were trying to pull bodies from the debris of a collapsed building.
Fifty aftershocks struck Tuesday and Wednesday in Gilan province, on the Caspian Sea, and Zanjan, just south, according to Tehran University’s Geophysics Center. More than 400 aftershocks have hit since Thursday.
Two field tribunals were being set up in northwestern Iran to try ″criminals who are abusing the situation in the area,″ IRNA said.
The agency did not elaborate, but appeared to refer either to looters or profiteers operating after the quake. The agency said the courts would be set up in Rudbar and Manjil.
At a news conference in Tehran, the managing director of Iran’s Red Crescent societies said survivors were being housed in more than 70,000 tents sent to the region, IRNA reported.
Mohammad Parham said 175 foreign planes airlifted thousands of tons of supplies, including medical aid, tents and other items. He praised the foreign relief effort and said 500 foreign doctors and relief workers were in the area.
He said relief operations were approaching the final stages and that there was no need for additional foreign doctors and relief workers, IRNA reported.
″The need for foreign doctors and rescuers was acute only in the first 72 hours. Now, the need is for medicines and shelter equipment,″ said Seyfollah Vahid Dastjerdi, the Red Crescent chief.
The first plane carrying Iraqi relief supplies arrived Wednesday. Iran and Iraq fought an eight-year war, which was halted by a cease-fire in 1988.
Foreign aid has come from more than 26 countries, including sworn enemies like the United States, Britain, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
That has prompted a bitter debate among Iranian leaders. Radicals say the donations should not lead to improved relations with the West, and others who say they should.
Radical members of parliament oppose ties with the West. President Hashemi Rafsanjani supports better ties with the outside world.
Some Western diplomats say the quake and resulting international aid effort could lead to better diplomatic ties.
″Of course the goodwill gesture being shown by France and other countries will have favorable effects in future relations of these countries with Iran,″ French Minister for Humanitarian Action Bernard Kouchner said in an interview published Wednesday in the Tehran Times.