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.

___

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.

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MUST-SEE VIDEO: Shot fired during Verizon store robbery

Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 @ 6:49 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 7:15 PM

SURVEILLANCE VIDEO: Shot fired in Butler Twp.Verizon robbery

UPDATE @ 5:05 p.m. (April 25): Police have released surveillance video that shows the robbery at the Verizon store on Miller Lane.

INITIAL REPORT (April 17)

Police are looking for as many as five males who discharged at least one firearm when they robbed a person of a purse and a cell phone at the Verizon store on Miller Lane. 

The robbery was reported just after 6 p.m. at the store at 7070 Miller Lane. At least one shot was fired inside the showroom. 

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No one was injured, Butler Twp. Detective Kevin Sink said. 

The car believed to have been used in the armed robbery, reportedly a blue Hyundai Elantra, was located Tuesday evening in the 1500 block of Weaver Street in Dayton. 

Jim, a contractor from Tennessee, said he and a co-worker were in a company van outside the store when a car pulled up. 

This car is believed to have been used in an armed robbery at the Verizon store on Miller Lane, in Butler Twp., on Tuesday afternoon (April 17, 2018). The car was located in Dayton, on Weaver Street. (Jim Noelker/Staff)

Three males came runing out and jumped in the car, Jim said, noting that seconds later a fourth male -- who had a dark or black handgun -- came out. He was wearing a hoodie and a white mask, as they all were. He was holding the firearm down at his side, pointed downward. 

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Jim said his co-worker was able to jot down the license plate of the getaway car. Jim said he was getting in position to snap a cell phone photo of the car when he saw the firearm and decided to crouch behind the van. 

"I don't want to get shot," he said. "I'm too close to retirement." 

The robbers looked to be young men in their 20s, Jim said, noting that they dropped a backpack and a blue Walmart bag outside the Verizon store. 

"My life is worth more than a picture," he said. "I'm just glad nobody got hurt."

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Got a tip? Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to newsdesk@cmgohio.com

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DASH CAM: See police bump car of Troy phone store burglary suspects

Published: Friday, April 13, 2018 @ 4:14 AM
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 6:37 PM

A Tipp City police cruiser was struck by two suspects in the break-in at the Troy Verizon store near Kroger.

UPDATE @ 7 p.m. (April 25): Police have released dashboard camera video from their pursuit of a vehicle believed to have been used as part of a burglary at a Troy Verizon store.

The suspects were able to elude capture when officers lost the vehicle in the area of Dorset and Philadelphia drives.

On April 13, police responded to a Verizon store in the 700 block of West Market Street in Troy about 3:40 a.m. on the report of a break-in. A Kroger employee reported hearing something being thrown through the store’s front glass, police said. 

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A pursuit began when a Tipp City officer noticed the suspect vehicle on southbound Interstate 75.

The suspect vehicle rammed the cruiser on Northwoods Boulevard in Vandalia, Tipp City Sgt. Marc Basye said. The officer was not injured.

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The silver vehicle was occupied by three males, according to reports. What the suspects got away with was not known.

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Convicted Warren County child rapist gets 15 years to life in prison

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 9:04 PM
Updated: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 9:57 PM

Warren County child rape mug
Warren County child rape mug

David Randall King, 58, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with parole eligibility after 15 years in a child rape case where he was the caretaker. 

King, of Pleasant Plain, in the Warren County village of Harlan Twp., was convicted by a county jury in March on two counts of rape and one count of gross sexual imposition. Both are felonies. 

County Prosecutor David Fornshell, in a prepared statement released Tuesday afternoon, said that from January 2014 to October 2015, King sexually assaulted a (then) 5- to 6-year-old girl he was a caretaker of at the time. 

After the assaults, he discouraged the child from telling anyone and told her she "wasn't brave enough to tell anyone." 

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Fornshell said the crimes came to light in May 2016 when the child told her foster parents about the assaults. They, in turn, reported the crimes to Warren County Children Services. 

"We often hear the word 'courage' overused when describing everyday actions. In this case, a nine year-old girl sat in a courtroom in front of a judge, 12 jurors, the attorneys, and everyone else in that audience, with her rapist looking right at her, and described in exact detail what he did to her,” Fornshell said in the statement.

“THAT is courage," he said.

Got at tip? Call our monitored 24-hour line, 937-259-2237, or send it to newsdesk@cmgohio.com

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George H.W. Bush recovering after infection, moved out of intensive care

Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 2:44 PM
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 2:44 PM

Biography of George H.W. Bush

Former President George H.W. Bush has been moved from the intensive care unit at Houston Methodist Hospital to a regular patient bed days after he suffered an infection that spread to his blood, a family spokesman said Wednesday.

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