A total of 306 people have died in the two earthquakes that shook Iran on Saturday, but as it called off the search for survivors Iran rejected all offers of assistance from the international community—even sending back a rescue team that arrived from Turkey.
The death toll included at least 219 women and children and there were a total of more than 3,000 people injured in the quake, which hit the towns of Ahar, Haris and Varzaqan in East Azerbaijan province, according to Iran’s state media.
The state media reported that at least 12 villages were totally leveled, and 425 others had sustained damage ranging from 50 to 80 percent.
As the nation struggled to cope with the tragedy, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is being criticized for leaving Iran to attend a meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Saudi Arabia, which is expected to deal with the crisis in Syria.
The newspaper Asr-e Iran wrote an editorial entitled “Mr. Ahmadinejad, where have you gone?”
“In every other part of the world, the tradition is that when natural disasters happen, leaders will change their plans and visit the affected areas in order to show their compassion … and observe rescue efforts,” the editorial said, according to Reuters.
The Associated Press reported that Health Minister Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi informed parliament today that 50 had been added to the death toll after victims had died in the hospital. The health minister said that while ambulances and medics have been deployed to the region, the ministry still needed helicopters to transport the more seriously injured.
The death toll in the rural areas was exacerbated by old, heavy roofs without frames that fell in on many victims.
Since the quakes hit, the region has felt many aftershocks in the region. The earthquakes had magnitudes of 6.4 and 6.3. There are an estimated 300,000 people who live in the 2,300 square mile region that borders Azerbaijan and Armenia.
But while the health minister said there was still a need for assistance, Iran’s Red Crescent Society said the country does not need any foreign aid.
Spokesman Pouya Hajian told semiofficial ISNA news agency that the International federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, UNICEF, Turkey, Taiwan, Singapore, Germany and many embassies in Tehran had offered help but that the Iranian Red Crescent is able to support the quake-stricken areas.
The weekend quake comes nine years after a 6.6 earthquake killed 26,000 in Bam. Ira sits on fault lines and is prone to quakes.