Last updated: 16 August, 2012

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei visits earthquake zone

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Thursday visited villages in his country’s northwest struck by twin deadly earthquakes at the weekend, where he reassured survivors and heard their criticism of relief operations, his website said.

The unannounced trip came five days after the quakes, one measuring 6.4 and the other 6.3 on the moment magnitude scale, decimated hundreds of hamlets near the city of Tabriz, killing 306 people and injuring more than 3,000 according to an official toll.

Several Iranian media outlets had criticised state television for not giving more attention to the disaster.

Khamenei’s website said that during the supreme leader’s visit, “residents expressed satisfaction with the services extended by the officials, (but) had complaints about the distribution of aid.”

Khamenei was quoted stressing “the great extent of efforts” but also urging a “more accurate supervision” in the distribution of goods.

He also called on the survivors to be “patient, tolerant,” saying: “If the residents are cooperative and sympathetic towards one another, this incident (the quake) can become a platform for change in the region.”

He assured the survivors that the entire country sympathised with their plight.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government has announced a fund to quickly rebuild homes in the mountainous region before the onset of the harsh winter.

A state grant of nearly $2,000 per family has been approved, along with low-interest loans for up to $6,000.

Ahmadinejad, who left Iran on Monday to attend a summit of Muslim countries on Tuesday and Wednesday in Saudi Arabia, on his return to Tehran on Thursday expressed his condolences to the survivors, the official IRNA news agency reported.