It has been revealed that most of the 306 people that died during the huge earthquake that hit Iran on Saturday were women and children, with another 3,000 people reportedly injured.
Iranian Health Minister Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi shared with Iranian TV that 219 of the dead were either women or children, while 49 were men. Many still remained buried under the rubble as rescue workers continue digging through the catastrophic zone in the northern part of the Middle East country. A number of villages were hit hard by the 6.4-magnitude earthquake that struck 37 miles northeast of Tabriz.
"Nobody knows what happened to his wife and two daughters," one local, Ahmad, 41, said of the family of his cousin who died in the earthquake. "We fear that if rescuers don't get to them soon, they will lose their lives too if they're still alive."
Thousands of people were sleeping at makeshift camps, weary of aftershocks that can cause further damage. Although a number of populated areas were hit, authorities have identified the villages of Ahar, Varzaghan and Harees as areas of concern. More than 1,000 villages in total have been affected by the earthquakes, with 20 being completely destroyed, Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) has said.
"I wanted to go there last night to help but heard there was bad traffic and that it wasn't safe enough," Ahmad added. "People in those villages need help."
Government officials have also warned that unless people in need get the help they require soon, the death toll may rise.
"Despite the promises of officials, little first aid has been distributed in the region and most people are left without tents. If the situation continues, the toll will rise," warned Abbas Falahi, a member of parliament for Ahar and Harees.
A government fund of $1,000 per affected family has been approved to help them rebuild their lives and their homes in preparation for winter, but it is unclear if such a sum will be enough to restore the damages.