Iraqi rescue officials said Sunday they had recovered four bodies from the rubble of a Shia shrine hit by a landslide, adding that the search for survivors was continuing.
“We have found four bodies, including [one] of a woman” at the site near Karbala, central Iraq, civil defense official Abdelrahman Jawdat told AFP. At least six pilgrims had been reported trapped under the rubble.
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Iraqi rescue workers were earlier in the day battling to free at least six pilgrims, who were trapped under the rubble.
It was feared that “between six and eight people are still caught” under the rocks and debris of the shrine, known as Qattarat al-Imam Ali, civil defense spokesman Nawas Sabah Shaker had told AFP.
Watch: A video shows the moment Iraqi rescue workers retrieve a boy trapped under rubble after a landslide hit a #Shia shrine in the central province of #Karbala where at least six pilgrims remain missing. #Iraq https://t.co/QPIh8eTD5N pic.twitter.com/OKOwIV3dGp— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) August 21, 2022
Three children had earlier been rescued, following Saturday's disaster, emergency services said, adding that they were in “good condition" and being monitored in a hospital.
Rescue teams working through the night under floodlights were able to provide supplies of oxygen, as well as food and water to the trapped people through gaps in the rubble, said the Iraqi News Agency (INA).
Iraqi President Barham Saleh on Twitter called on the “heroic” rescue workers to “mobilize all efforts to save the trapped people.”
The emergency responders were maintaining verbal contact with the victims “to reassure them.”
“We are working hard, with the utmost precision, to reach the trapped people,” Abdelrahman Jawdat, director of the civil defense media department, told AFP.
“Any mistake could lead to further collapses.”
One man at the scene, Bassem Khazali, said his nephew was among those buried under the rubble.
“I am afraid that all the efforts undertaken will be in vain... We want to know what happened, why it happened,” Khazali told AFP.
Sand, rocks collapse onto the shrine building
Shaker told AFP that “sand dunes and rocks collapsed onto the shrine building”, blaming the saturation of the earth due to humidity.
The landslide on Saturday afternoon hit the shrine located in a natural depression about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Karbala.
The rocks and sand started sliding because of the “saturation of the earthen embankment adjacent to the shrine”, the civil defense told INA.
“This led to the collapse of about 30 percent of the area of the building, which measures about 100 square meters (1,000 square feet).”