Two more bodies pulled from Iraq shrine landslide

By: AFP
Published: 07:07 PM, 22 Aug, 2022
Two more bodies pulled from Iraq shrine landslide
Caption: Iraqi rescue workers search for survivors trapped under the rubble of the Qattarat al-Imam Ali shrine following a landslide, on the outskirts of the holy city of Karbala.
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The bodies of two pilgrims were pulled from an Iraqi shrine Monday, two days after its partial collapse in a landslide, taking the overall toll to seven dead, rescuers said.

Emergency workers were trying to remove the rubble and debris from the shrine known as Qattarat al-Imam Ali near the Shiite holy city of Karbala in cental Iraq.

"Unfortunately, we found this morning two bodies, a man and a woman", under the rubble, Jawdat Abdelrahman, director of the civil defence media department, told AFP.

So far, the bodies retrieved from the site were a child, four women and two men, while three children had been rescued and rushed to hospital.

"We are continuing the search for other victims," Abdelrahman said, adding eyewitnesses had reported that there was another body, of a woman, still under the rubble.

Civil defence spokesman Nawas Sabah Shaker had said on Sunday that between six and eight pilgrims had been reported trapped under the debris of the shrine, near the Shiite holy city of Karbala.

The three children rescued earlier were in "good condition" and being monitored in a hospital, emergency services had said on Sunday.

Search and rescue operations have been carried out since the shrine, which sits at the base of high, bare rock walls, became partially buried when earthen embankments collapsed on Saturday due to saturation from humidity, according to the civil defence.

Anger over tragedy 

It is the latest tragedy to befall oil-rich but poverty-stricken Iraq, which is trying to move past decades of war but is hobbled by political paralysis, endemic corruption and other challenges.

Anger has erupted at officials as grieving locals demanded an explanation.

"We want to know what happened, why it happened," said Bassem Khazali, whose nephew was among the victims.

Firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr meanwhile railed against "suspected corruption that caused civilian deaths", in a tweet Sunday evening.

But Iraq's Shiite waqf, which is responsible for administering Shiite properties in the country, said in a statement that it did not manage the shrine nor the land on which it was built.

"The shrine does not belong to a known party, but to individuals who have been summoned" for questioning, Karbala governor Nassif al-Khatabi wrote on Facebook, without providing further detail.

Rescuers on Sunday drove a bulldozer through the shrine's entrance, which resembles half a dome ornately decorated with blue tiles covered in Arabic script.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh had called on rescue workers to "mobilise all efforts to save the trapped people", while Caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi urged his interior minister to directly supervise operations.

The stricken shrine is dedicated to Imam Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, who according to Shiite tradition stopped there with his army on his way to a battle in AD 657.

It is located in a natural depression about 25 kilometres (15 miles) west of Karbala, which is the burial place of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.

Shiites view Hussein, who died in battle in AD 680, as the rightful successor to the Prophet Mohammed, the issue at the heart of a schism with Sunni Islam.

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.