x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UAE ready to help Iran quake victims

The Ministry of the Interior, a Dubai-based UN agency and local charities have expressed their readiness to assist survivors of the twin earthquakes.

DUBAI // Iran now says it welcomes foreign aid for its citizens affected by twin earthquakes last Saturday, but no request has reached United Nations or local humanitarian agencies.

The Iranian state news agency Irna on Tuesday quoted Mohammed Reza Rahimi, the vice president, as saying Iran was ready to receive help from abroad.

The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), based in Dubai, and local charities have expressed their readiness to assist survivors of the earthquakes, despite repeated rejections of international aid by the Iranian government.

An Ocha spokesman said the UN had offered its support if required and that a UN coordinator was in the quake area with an Ocha disaster response adviser.

Majed Abu Kubi, the Ocha outreach manager, added that neither the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had not started to provide assistance because the Iranian government had not requested it.

Dubai is the world's largest UN-operated centre for the provision of emergency assistance, with more than 25,000 square metres of storage space. This compares with the UN Logistics Base in Brindisi, Italy, with 10,000 sq metres, and the base in Panama with 1,600 sq metres.

Ocha's situation report says the quakes badly damaged three cities in the province of East Azerbaijan: Ahar, Heris and Varzaghan.

Many of the nearly 3.7 million residents of the north-west province have been spending the night in the open.

More than 60 aftershocks have been recorded and official sources indicate 133 villages were heavily damaged while 12 were completely devastated.

The death toll stands at 300 and the number of injured rose to 2,006.

Iranian authorities say as many as 92 relief teams with more than 860 staff have been sent to the area.

Up to 17,000 people have been displaced and are in need of temporary shelter.

The Iranian Red Crescent Society reported it has erected 5,636 family and group tents.

The society says the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ordered relief distributions to be doubled.

Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, Minister of Interior, has told Iran's ambassador to the UAE, Mohammed Reza Fayyaz, of the country's readiness to send humanitarian aid.

Mr Fayyaz said Sheikh Saif offered teams equipped with helicopters, rescue dogs and life detectors to assist in the quake-stricken areas.

The head of Iran's Red Crescent Society, Abulhassan Faqih, thanked the UAE for its offer and said should there be any need for foreign aid, Tehran's priority would be its neighbours, particularly the UAE.

A bulletin by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on Tuesday said: "The Red Crescent Society of Islamic Republic of Iran has determined that external assistance is not required at this moment, and is therefore not seeking funding or other assistance from donors and the International Movement of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies at this time."

But local humanitarian organisations said they were ready to send aid if there were an appeal.

"We haven't received any order from them," said Saleh Al Mazroei, acting director of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment.

Mr Al Mazroei said the organisation, which had sent aid to several countries in the past, was willing to step in "if there is an order".

"Until now they said they don't need aid," said a relief worker from a local organisation, who declined to be identified. "If they ask, we are ready to send."

amustafa@thenational.ae

pkannan@thenational.ae

* This article was updated on August 16 to clarify the words of Majed Abu Kubi, outreach manager at the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Dubai. An earlier version stated the WFP and UNHCR had not sent aid "because of the Iranian government's stance against it". In fact, Mr Kubi simply meant the Iranian government "had not asked for it".