Iraqi rescue teams have pulled people out from under the rubble, after a dirt hill fell on a religious shrine in Karbala province, south of Baghdad, while at least six people are believed to be stuck, according to the Civil Defense, yesterday.
The Iraqi rescue teams succeeded in pulling out three children from under the rubble of the shrine, saying, “They are in good health, and they were taken to the hospital to follow up on their health.”
Pictures of civil defense personnel showed a child carrying a stretcher from under the rubble, his face and body covered with dirt.
A spokesman for the Civil Defense Directorate, Nawas Sabah Shaker, said he expected that “six to eight people are still trapped, under the rubble,” stressing that “the evictions are continuing.”
Sources indicated that the Civil Defense Department used the efforts of civil defense teams in the governorates of Diwaniyah, Babil and Muthanna to provide assistance by using equipment and large excavators to facilitate excavation operations, and to reach those trapped under the rubble and sand.
Yesterday, the Director of the Civil Defense Directorate in Iraq, Major General Kazem Salman Buhan, ruled out reaching people alive under the rubble of the shrine.
Major General Kazem said, in a press statement, that rescue operations are continuing, and some people have been rescued, while about six others are still under the rubble of the destroyed shrine.
He explained that “the oxygen was delivered to the bottom of the building through holes as a precautionary measure,” noting that he was not optimistic about reaching people alive under the rubble of the shrine, expecting that they would suffer very serious injuries, due to the fall of dozens of concrete blocks on them.
“There is no contact with people under the rubble of the shrine,” he said, adding: “We are working with high capabilities, in cooperation with civil defense teams in a number of governorates, and work is ongoing, and may take some time.”
For his part, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, Major General Khaled Al-Muhanna, ruled out reaching survivors, “since there is no contact with them.”
Sources in the Iraqi Civil Defense stated that its teams continue operations of precise excavation and removal of large cement blocks using light rescue equipment, to cut reinforcing bars, and raise concrete blocks in the Qattara Imam Ali shrine, under the supervision of the elite forces of civil defense men.
The sources indicated that the civil defense teams continued, throughout the night before last, their operations to reach all detainees. She pointed out that the initial information attributed the cause of the shrine’s collapse to the saturation of the area and the earthen berm adjacent to the shrine with moisture, which led to the collapse of a large earthen mass on the shrine roof on visitors. For his part, the Director of Civil Defense Media, Abdul Rahman Jawdat, confirmed that the work “is being carried out with utmost precision to reach the injured, because any mistake may lead to other collapses.”
He expected that the collapsed area would be meticulously cleared by removing rubble and rubble. Witnesses were quoted as saying that “there are still at least two women, a man and a child trapped under the rubble.”
Basem al-Khazali, the uncle of one of those trapped under the rubble, told AFP: “My nephew is a photographer. He entered the shrine to photograph visitors, and then the mountain collapsed from above them, and the roof collapsed on them.”
In a press statement yesterday, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kazemi, stressed the importance of making efforts by the rescue teams in the civil defense, and performing the duty in the fullest manner. Al-Kazemi assigned the Minister of Interior, Othman Al-Ghanimi, to supervise the rescue work, ensure the safety of the injured and rescue the trapped.
For his part, Iraqi President Barham Salih wrote, commenting on the incident, “We received the pain of the tragic accident suffered by our people in the collapse of the Tal shrine in Karbala.”
“We appeal to the civil defense teams and volunteers to rescue the stranded and help them, and to mobilize efforts to rescue the rest of the besieged,” he added.
The accident occurred on Saturday afternoon, when an earthen mound collapsed on the Qattara shrine of Imam Ali, located 25 km west of the city of Karbala, due to “the saturation of the dirt berm adjacent to the shrine with moisture,” the Civil Defense Directorate told the Iraqi News Agency.
A civil defense spokesman explained that “sand dunes and rocks collapsed due to the high humidity on the shrine building,” which is located on low ground surrounded by sand and rocks. He added that this “caused the collapse of about 30% of the building’s area, which is estimated at 100 square meters.”
The Civil Defense Directorate told the Iraqi News Agency that its teams were able to “deliver oxygen, drinking water and food to the detainees by completing holes in the pile of rubble and concrete blocks, with continuous verbal communication to reassure them.”
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