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At least 6 Iraqis trapped after landslide hits Shiite shrine

Iraqi rescue workers were Sunday battling to free at least six pilgrims trapped under rubble after a landslide hit a Shiite Muslim shrine in the central province of Karbala.

An aerial picture shows members of Iraqi emergency services scanning the rubble for victims following a landslide at the Qattarat al-Imam Ali shrine on the outskirts of the holy city of Karbala, late on August 20, 2022. – Iraqi rescue workers were battling to free at least six pilgrims trapped under rubble after a landslide hit a Shiite Muslim shrine in the central province of Karbala. (Photo by Mohammed SAWAF / AFP)

Iraqi rescue workers were Sunday battling to free at least six pilgrims trapped under rubble after a landslide hit a Shiite Muslim shrine in the central province of Karbala.

Three children had been rescued since Saturday’s disaster, emergency services said, adding that they were in “good condition” and being monitored in a hospital.

But it was feared that “between six and eight people are still caught” under the rubble of the shrine, known as Qattarat al-Imam Ali, civil defence spokesman Nawas Sabah Shaker told AFP.

Rescue teams working through the night under floodlights were able to provide supplies of oxygen as well as food and water to people trapped through gaps in the rubble, said the state news agency INA.

Shaker told AFP that “sand dunes and rocks collapsed onto the shrine building”, blaming the saturation of the earth due to humidity and adding that “evacuation operations are still underway”.

The landslide on Saturday afternoon hit the shrine located in a natural depression about 25 kilometres (15 miles) from the Shiite holy city of Karbala.

The rocks and sand started sliding because of the “saturation of the earthen embankment adjacent to the shrine” due to humidity, the civil defence told INA.

“This led to the collapse of about 30 percent of the area of the building, which measures about 100 square metres (1,000 square feet).”

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