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Iran's summer earthquake leaves 100,000 shivering in tents as winter descends

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The risks are clear in this once-picturesque village, 400 miles northwest of Tehran. The use of electrical heaters with too-thin wiring started a fire that swept through 10 tents before dawn on Oct. 10, killing an elderly woman and injuring two children.

“When I heard the news…my whole body was shaking out of sadness and anger,” says Farzin Rezaei, a university student from Tabriz who has volunteered in the earthquake zone. 

“I could not imagine a lady of that age who lost [her home] once, facing a tough situation, now losing her life,” says Mr. Rezaei. “The news pushed me deep down into a terrible feeling.”

That concern was echoed by Akbar, an aid worker with the Iranian Red Crescent who was with the rescue and firefighting team when the tent fire broke out. He asked that only his first name be published.

“It is already cold here. Two months passed since the disaster, and unfortunately the authorities failed to fulfill their promises: no temporary housing units, no rebuilt houses,” Akbar said last month.

“It’s not easy to witness these kind people facing so many difficulties… I saw someone use his blanket to protect his sheep [because] animals are more important to them, just vital,” says Akbar. “The weather is going to be more unfriendly. You can’t blame them for carelessness – to keep an electric heater turned on next to them in a small tent while asleep.”

Government falls short

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