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Anger Hits Boiling Point As Iranian Quake Survivors Left In The Cold

An elderly Iranian woman sits near tents erected for victims of the earthquake in the city of Sarpol-e Zahab in Kermanshah Province on November 14.

Frustration is boiling over as earthquake survivors sleep outside in freezing temperatures, waiting for much-needed aid to reach devastated areas of Iran.

"People here have nothing, nothing. No tents, no blankets, no food. There's nothing here. People are facing very tough conditions here. It's a crisis situation," one resident of Sarpol-e Zahab, a town in Iran's western Kermanshah Province that has been described as among the worst hit, told a journalist reporting from the scene.

"It's a disaster," the unidentified man said in a video interview conducted in the town, situated in a mountainous area 30 kilometers from the Iraqi border. "Our dear leader, our dear president, they have to help us," he pleaded in the video, which was posted on the Twitter page of journalist Mehdi Babaei.

Iranian authorities have reported at least 530 deaths and 8,000 injuries resulting from the 7.3-magnitude earthquake that struck late on November 12, while seven deaths and 530 injuries have been reported across the border in Iraq. And as reports and videos emerge from the epicenter, hope appears to be fading.

Even as President Hassan Rohani gave assurances during a visit on November 14 to affected regions that the government would "use all its power to resolve the problems," residents of Sarpol-e Zahab described having to sleep outside in the cold for a second night, and said they're still waiting to receive help from the authorities.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the entity handling the response to the quake, Behnam Saidi, said search operations were "reaching their end."

In a video by the news agency of the state broadcaster IRIB, posted by Shargh Daily, an unidentified man said that "water, gas, electricity -- they all have been cut. We have nothing, and no official has come here."

The hard-line Fars news agency posted a video of angry residents in Sarpol-e Zahab, complaining of what they described as a lack of attention and news coverage of their plight. "People need water and food. Help us," a man says in the video from the town, which is located in a largely Kurdish-populated area.

"There's not even a good team covering the news about us, and there's no one removing the debris, people here are not part of Iran? Are we not part of this nation?" another man asks.

"A gentleman in a suit comes here and tells the media that all has been resolved," alleged another.

The semiofficial Fars separately posted an interview with a resident of Kermanshah who said he and his family had not eaten for two days. "Those who died are under the rubble," the man said. "Please help those who are still alive.... We're adults. What about my kids? They'll perish."

The mayor of Azgaleh, another hard-hit town in Kermanshah, called for help in an interview with Iran's state-controlled television. "We have dead here and unfortunately the aid process has been weak here," Nazar Barani said.

"We are in severe need of tents. It's been two nights that people -- women and children -- are sleeping outdoors," he added. "The temperatures are very low. There are elderly women and men here; it's difficult for them.

The government Iran daily posted a video of people in Kermanshah sitting and lying in the dark, wrapped in blankets, around a small fire. The daily reported that less than half of the earthquake survivors had not received tents and blankets.

The semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted residents of Kermanshah Province's Salas-e Babajani county as saying that, 40 hours after the quake, debris had yet to be removed. "We don't have tents," one man said. "We slept on the ground in the cold," another said.

Iran's Red Crescent said thousands of people had been provided with emergency shelters, but that the delivery of aid was being hampered by blocked roads.

Red Crescent officials have said that more than 33,000 households were affected by the earthquake. They said 12,000 emergency tents, 26,000 blankets, and 17,000 cans of food had already been dispatched to the affected areas.

Hamidreza Janbaz, the head of Iran's Water and Sewerage Company, said it expected to distribute 100,000 bottles of water a day to seven cities in Kermanshah. He said water distribution in earthquake-stricken areas was launched within hours of the quake.

During his visit on November 14, President Rohani said that 11,000 rural homes and about 4,500 homes in towns had been destroyed. "We need 30,000 new dwellings," he said.

The president promised to follow the relief and compensation efforts closely. "The government will not leave people on their own and as the servant of the people," he said. "We will stand by you."

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