Quake kills 430 in Iranian border region rebuilt after war

Published: Monday, November 13, 2017 @ 1:10 AM
Updated: Monday, November 13, 2017 @ 1:09 AM

Rescuers dug with their bare hands Monday through the debris of buildings felled by an earthquake that killed more than 430 people in the border region of Iran and Iraq, with nearly all the casualties occurring in an area rebuilt after their ruinous 1980s war.

The magnitude-7.3 earthquake struck Sunday at 9:48 p.m. Iran time, just as people were going to bed. The worst damage appeared to be in the Kurdish town of Sarpol-e-Zahab in the western Iranian province of Kermanshah, which sits in the Zagros Mountains that divide the two countries.

Residents fled without time to grab their possessions as apartment complexes collapsed into rubble. Outside walls of some buildings were sheared off, power and water lines were severed, and telephone service was disrupted. Residents dug frantically through wrecked buildings for survivors as they wailed. Firefighters from Tehran joined other rescuers in the desperate search, using dogs to inspect the rubble.

The hospital in Sarpol-e-Zahab was heavily damaged, and the army set up field hospitals, although many of the injured were moved to other cities, including Tehran.

The quake also damaged an army garrison and buildings in the border city and killed an unspecified number of soldiers, according to reports.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei immediately dispatched all government and military forces to aid those affected.

Many of the heavily damaged complexes in Sarpol-e-Zahab were part of construction projects under former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The newly homeless slept outside in cold, huddled around makeshift fires for warmth, wrapped in blankets — as were the dead.

The quake killed 430 people in Iran and injured 7,156, the state-run IRNA news agency reported Tuesday. Most of the injuries were minor with fewer than 1,000 still hospitalized, Iran's crisis management headquarters spokesman Behnam Saeedi told state TV.

The official death toll came from provincial forensic authorities based on death certificates issued. Some reports said unauthorized burials without certification could mean the death toll was actually higher.

The quake was centered about 19 miles (31 kilometers) outside the eastern Iraqi city of Halabja, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and struck 14.4 miles (23.2 kilometers) below the surface, a somewhat shallow depth that can cause broader damage. The quake caused Dubai's skyscrapers to sway and could be felt 1,060 kilometers (660 miles) away on the Mediterranean coast.

Seven deaths occurred in Iraq and 535 people were injured, all in the country's northern, semiautonomous Kurdish region, according to its Interior Ministry.

The disparity in casualty tolls immediately drew questions from Iranians, especially because so much of the town was new.

Kokab Fard, a 49-year-old housewife in Sarpol-e-Zahab, said she could only flee empty-handed when her apartment complex collapsed.

"Immediately after I managed to get out, the building collapsed," Fard said. "I have no access to my belongings."

Reza Mohammadi, 51, said he and his family ran into the alley following the first shock.

"I tried to get back to pick some stuff, but it totally collapsed in the second wave," Mohammadi said.

Khamenei offered his condolences as President Hassan Rouhani's office said Iran's elected leader would tour the damaged areas Tuesday, which was declared a national day of mourning. Authorities also set up relief camps and hundreds lined up to donate blood in Tehran, though some on state TV complained about the slowness of aid coming.

Sarpol-e-Zahab fell to the troops of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein during his 1980 invasion of Iran, which sparked the eight-year war between the two countries that killed 1 million people. Though clawed back by Iran seven months later, the area remained a war zone that suffered through Saddam's missile attacks and chemical weapons.

After the war, Iran began rebuilding the town. It also was part of Ahmadinejad's low-income housing project, which aided the Holocaust-questioning hard-liner's populist credentials but also saw cheap construction.

Under the plan dubbed as Mehr or "kindness" in Farsi, some 2 million units were built in Iran, including hundreds in Sarpol-e Zahab. Many criticized the plan, warning that the low-quality construction could lead to a disaster.

"Before its 10-year anniversary, Mehr buildings have turned into coffins for its inhabitants," the reformist Fararu news website wrote Monday.

Seismologist Abdul-Karim Abdullah Taqi, who runs the earthquake monitoring group at Iraq's Meteorological Department, said the main reason for the lower casualty figure in Iraq was the angle and direction of the fault line in this particular quake, as well as the nature of the Iraqi geological formations that could better absorb the shocks.

University of Colorado geological scientist Roger Bilham said earthquakes in the Zagros range, where there are more than 20 different faults, have killed more than 100,000 people in the last 1,000 years.

Because there are so many earthquakes in the region, proper construction is critical, but it "doesn't trickle down to the villages," Bilham said.

In Darbandikhan, Iraq, Amina Mohammed said she and her sons escaped their home as it collapsed around them.

"I think it was only God that saved us," she said. "I screamed to God and it must have been him to stop the stairs from entirely collapsing on us."

Residents were clearing the rubble from the streets of Darbandikhan, about 10 kilometers from the Iranian border.

The quake caused visible damage to a dam at Darbandikhan that holds back the Diyala River.

"There are horizontal and vertical cracks on the road and in the body of the dam and parts of the dam sank lower," said Rahman Hani, the director of the dam.

No dams were damaged in Iran, the government in Tehran said.

Halabja, closest to the epicenter, is notorious for the 1988 chemical attack in which Saddam killed some 5,000 people with mustard gas — the deadliest chemical weapons attack ever against civilians.

Turkey dispatched emergency aid to northern Iraq as officials expressed "deep sadness" at the disaster. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said his country acted immediately to provide medical and food aid to northern Iraq.

Kerem Kinik, the Turkish Red Crescent's vice president, told The Associated Press from the Habur border crossing that 33 aid trucks were en route to Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, carrying 3,000 tents and heaters, 10,000 beds and blankets, as well as food.

Relations between Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region and Turkey were strained following the Iraqi Kurds' September independence referendum.

Pakistan also extended condolences for the loss of life and injuries suffered by "our Iranian and Iraqi brethren."

Pope Francis offered prayers for the dead and urged rescue crews to stay strong.

Iran sits on many major fault lines and is prone to near-daily quakes. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people. The last major casualty earthquake in Iran struck in East Azerbaijan province in August 2012, killing over 300.

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Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Susannah George in Irbil, Iraq; Balint Szlanko and Salar Salim in Darbandikhan, Iraq; Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul; Zarar Khan in Islamabad; Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad; and Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed.

Pregnant woman killed by stray bullet near area popular with recreational shooters

Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2018 @ 4:20 AM

File photo. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images
File photo. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)(Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

Kami Gilstrap, 24, who was struck by a stray bullet during a family outing in Arizona’s Buckeye desert on Jan. 14, has died from her injuries.

>> Watch the news report here

Arizona's Family

Friends told AZFamily.com that Gilstrap was the wife of an airman stationed at Luke Air Force Base, and she had just learned she was pregnant with their first child.

Buckeye is an area popular with recreational shooters, Buckeye Police Chief Larry Hall told reporters. He said both the Buckeye Police Department and the Bureau of Land Management had officers in the area because of the high number of people out shooting.

“There’s tons of ricochets. And our incident from yesterday was an indication that the round that was fired at our victim, yesterday, came from a completely different direction than where everybody’s firing right now. There are no regulations out here,” Hall said.

Police said there were hundreds of people out shooting Jan. 14.

Gilstrap was shot in the chest around 2 p.m. A pickup truck sped to a group of officers with Gilstrap in the bed; a group of people performed chest compressions on her in an effort to deliver emergency first aid. Witnesses told the officers they heard three distinct shots but didn’t know where they came from. One of the bullets lodged in Gilstrap’s chest. She was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, but she died Jan. 15.

>> Read more trending news 

Hall said the area is filled with trash and debris, which makes it easy for bullets to ricochet and hit another shooter.

“And that’s where this whole situation out here is absolutely dangerous,” Hall said. “I would never bring my family out here, and I’d never bring my friends out here.”

Hall said investigators have not been able to pinpoint the shooter.

“The biggest challenge we’re facing in this investigation right now is that there are hundreds of shooters out here, and there were hundreds of shooters just south of where the incident occurred, which is a 1-mile stretch of area,” Hall said. “In trying to determine trajectory, and actually the round that hit her, it’s gonna be a very challenging investigation at this point.”

Others who frequent the Buckeye desert were shocked but not surprised that something like this happened.

“It’s something that would have been a matter of time, not if, but when it was going to happen,” said Hector Guzman, who has gone target shooting in the desert a few times.

Related

Video shows children leaving alleged 'torture house' in California

Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2018 @ 2:00 AM

Details Emerge About 13 Siblings Rescued From California Home

Following their parents’ arrest, the Turpin siblings finally tasted freedom.

>> Watch the news report here

A surveillance video shows the siblings exiting the house where they were allegedly held captive. One grown sibling is shown carrying one of the younger children while another sibling is seen running to the silver van in the driveway that would take them from the house which reports have described as a nightmare.

>> Hundreds of journals found in home where 13 siblings held captive, DA says

David and Louise Turpin were arrested after one of their daughters reportedly escaped from the home and called police. The children were found Jan. 14 at their home in Perris, California. The Turpin parents are accused of abusing their children for years.

>> Dogs found in perfect condition in home where 13 siblings held captive

The parents allegedly forced the children to shower only once a year, shackled them to furniture and beat them routinely, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said at a press conference. The Turpins also are accused of taunting their children with food. Hestrin said the children had not been to a doctor in four years and had never visited a dentist.

The 13 siblings, ages 2 to 29, have all been hospitalized. Hestrin said the oldest sibling, a 29-year-old woman, weighed only 82 pounds. He said a 12-year-old sibling was the weight of an average 7-year-old.

>> Parents accused of holding their 13 children captive appear in court

All of the siblings are being treated for malnutrition and undergoing other diagnostic tests.

“Circumstantial evidence in the house suggests that the victims were often not released from their chains to go to the bathroom,” Hestrin said at the press conference. “If the children were found to wash their hands above the wrist area, they were accused of playing in the water, and they would be chained up.”

The parents have each been charged with 12 counts of torture, 12 counts of false imprisonment, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult and six counts of child abuse. In addition, David Turpin has been charged with one count of a lewd act on a child under the age of 14 by force, fear or duress. They have each pleaded not guilty to all charges.

13 Siblings Held Captive In California "House of Horrors"

David Macher, a lawyer representing David Turpin, told ABC News: “What we would like the public to know is that our clients are presumed to be innocent, and that’s a very important presumption,” adding, “We’re going to provide a vigorous defense.”

Meanwhile, Hestrin said that when the siblings were not chained up, they were locked in different rooms and were not allowed to have toys. Investigators said they found many toys in the house; however, they were reportedly in their original packaging and had never been opened.

The Turpins are accused of starting the torture of their children when they lived in a rural area of North Texas near Fort Worth. Hestrin said the torture “intensified over time and worsened” when they moved to California in 2014.

“They were fed very little, on a schedule," Hestrin added.

>> Read more trending news 

The moved to a middle-class neighborhood in Perris, about 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles, where they home-schooled their children and allegedly kept them trapped inside the home.

A sister of Louise Turpin, Elizabeth Flores, told ABC the couple kept to themselves.

“This has been going on before they even had children. … They were real private, and they didn’t come around much,” Flores said.

“We begged to Skype (with) them,” Flores said. “We begged to see them.”

Mom accused in 'torture house' case kept watchful eye on son at college, report says

Published: Wednesday, January 24, 2018 @ 3:03 AM

Details Emerge About 13 Siblings Rescued From California Home

David Allen Turpin, 57, and Louise Anna Turpin, 49, are accused of shackling and torturing their 13 children, ages 2 to 29, for years. A new report underlined part of the relationship that the California couple had with at least one of their children.

>> Video shows children leaving alleged 'torture house' in California

KABC reports that despite a lacking home education, the eldest son was permitted to attend classes at Mount San Jacinto College, a local community college. However, Riverside County District Attorney Michael A. Hestrin said there were significant conditions to his attendance.

“Louise Turpin would accompany him, wait outside of the classroom for him,” he said. “When he was finished with class, she would take him home.”

>> Hundreds of journals found in home where 13 siblings held captive, DA says

Despite the alleged factors of his home life, the son maintained a 3.93 grade-point average after attending school for six semesters.

The college said in a statement that it was aware of the Turpin child’s past enrollment.

>> Parents accused of holding their 13 children captive appear in court

“We at Mount San Jacinto College are deeply saddened and horrified to hear of the allegations involving these children,” the college said. “Our hearts go out to the victims. MSJC will follow this story and will provide appropriate support from our institution.”

The college cited the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act in declining to give further information.

>> Read more trending news 

The Turpins are accused of beating, strangling, binding and allowing their children to shower only once a year. The father is also accused of committing a lewd act against one of the children.

The couple made their first court appearance last Thursday and face 94 years to life in prison if convicted of all charges.

13 Siblings Held Captive In California "House of Horrors"

Hundreds of journals found in home where 13 siblings held captive, DA says

Published: Monday, January 22, 2018 @ 6:30 AM

Details Emerge About 13 Siblings Rescued From California Home

We are learning more about the California home where police say 13 siblings were kept in subhuman conditions by their parents

>> Watch the news report here

Although the children in the home, ages 2 to 29, were only allowed to bathe twice a year and eat once a day, they were allowed to write in journals, authorities said. District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in a press conference that the children kept hundreds of journals, and he believes they will be “very significant” in the upcoming court case, the Desert Sun reports. Hestrin added that he thinks the journals will provide “strong evidence of what occurred in that home.”

>> Parents accused of holding their 13 children captive appear in court

Researchers are also interested in the journals as they detail the firsthand accounts of the alleged abuse. One academic told the Desert Sun: “There is a good chance that being able to write may have kept them sane. In an interesting way, this may have helped them come to terms with the bizarre world they lived in.” He even compared them to the journals kept by Anne Frank.

>> Dogs found in perfect condition in home where 13 siblings held captive

The journals could prove valuable for prosecutors as they might provide evidence that could be used to cross-examine the parents, David and Louise Turpin. The Turpins are facing life in prison for a series of charges, including torture.

>> Read more trending news 

The journals have not been made public, and law enforcement officials are currently in the process of reviewing them.

The conditions in the home were unimaginable, authorities said. The children reportedly were beaten and chained to furniture. Neighbors recalled seeing them marching during the night. They were discovered when one girl escaped and managed to find a police officer, authorities said.