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November 15, 2017

Earthquake in Iran


November 15, 2017

This year’s deadliest earthquake hit the northern border region between Iraq and Iraq this past Sunday. By          Tuesday, the death toll had jumped over 450. The tremors have continued to be felt in the days since the earthquake with people remaining afraid of staying under their roofs. More than 70,000 people are said to be in need of emergency shelter. More than 236 of the deaths occurred in only one town 10 miles from the Iraq border. Some villages have been wiped out. The death toll has mostly been felt by Iran, with there being seven reported deaths from Iraqi territory. The toll has been made worse by a chaotic response to the need of shelter; the shallow 7.3 magnitude earthquake caused significant damage to housing infrastructure, with many of the mud houses in the region collapsing. No doubt, in days to come there will be a focus in Iran on what seems to have been governmental failure to address building quality issues and enforcement of building standards.

Iran remains a well-known earthquake zone, which has suffered a number of major earthquakes. Lack of attention to housing safety standards is a problem that is certainly not limited to Iran. The same problem has continued in Pakistan despite the country having suffered a number of serious earthquakes over the last decades. The best protection against earthquakes is pre-emptive. It requires creating emergency services and training people on what to do. But more than anything, it involves ensuring that buildings can survive structural damage. That can be done through the enforcement of stricter standards of construction. Iran’s efforts for recovery are likely to be complicated by the reluctance of foreign donors to give aid, given Iran’s precarious position in global politics. The sanctions on Iran must be put aside for aid efforts to continue successfully. The current earthquake is not as bad as the one in 2003, which killed over 30,000 people. However, the need for immediate assistance is rather obvious. We hope the international community understands that humanitarian aid must trump global politics.

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