Between six and eight pilgrims had been reported trapped under the debris of the shrine, known as Qattarat al-Imam Ali, civil defence spokesman Nawas Sabah Shaker had said earlier – Copyright AFP/File HECTOR RETAMAL
Two bodies were recovered on Monday from a shrine in Iraq’s Karbala province after a landslide caused it to partially collapse, bringing the overall toll to seven dead, rescue services said.
“Unfortunately, we found this morning two bodies, a man and a woman”, under the rubble of Qattarat al-Imam Ali, 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 that eyewitnesses said that the body of another woman was 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.
Rescue workers had searched for two days after the shrine, which sits at the base of high, bare rock walls, was partially buried when earthen embankments collapsed due to saturation from humidity, according to the civil defence.
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.
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.
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.