Iran natural disaster survivors plead for help as toll rises

Armenian PM extends condolences to First Vice-President of Iran on devastating earthquake

The death toll in the devastating 7.3-magnitude quake that struck Iran in a region bordering Iraq has reached 540, with thousands of Iranians struggling to cope without basic necessities and making desperate pleas for help. Tens of thousands of people are still desperately in need of help and survivors in the most remote parts of Iran are complaining about the slow pace of the relief effort. "The authorities should speed up their help", she said.

The epicentre lay 30km (18 miles) south of Halabja in Iraq, but nearly all of the casualties occurred in Iran's Kurdish heartland, in the country's marginalised north-west.

The Iranian army, the elite Revolutionary Guards and forces of its affiliated Basij militia were dispatched to affected areas on Sunday night.

One of the region's worst quakes struck Bam in Iran in 2003 and killed at least 31,000 people.

The most extensive damage in Iraq occurred in the town of Darbandikhan in the country's Kurdish region. The cities of Qasr-e Shirin, Azgeleh, Sarpol-e Zahab and Dalahou-all in Kermanshah-were the most severely impacted.

In a televised interview on Monday, IRGC Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said his forces are working in close cooperation with the Army to help victims of the massive quake in western Iran. But by Tuesday morning Iranian officials said there was no longer any likelihood of finding survivors and called the rescue off.

At least 7,460 people were injured during the quake, which hit seven big cities and 1,950 villages in the province.

Hospitals in nearby provinces took in numerous injured, state television said, airing footage of survivors waiting to be treated. Numerous villages affected by quake were very remote and hard to reach, said Bagheri.

Meantime, five groups of injured people were transferred to the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Monday to receive further treatments.

Some of the buildings, which were built by government-affiliated programs and "state-owned schemes", according to a statement from the Office of the President, collapsed or were badly damaged. We heard a few aid workers in Sarpol-e Zahab saying that those in the villages were already dead and nothing could be done for them.

"Search operations are reaching their end, with teams constantly monitoring the situation to know if there are still people to extract from the rubble", Behnam Saidi, the spokesman for a crisis unit set up to handle the response to the quake, told state television. I can not even go there.

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