Rescue services pulled five bodies of pilgrims from the rubble of a Shiite shrine in Karbala, central Iraq, on Sunday. Part of the mausoleum collapsed due to a landslide on Saturday.
The Iraqi Civil Defense has spent the past 24 hours searching for survivors and victims’ bodies among rocks, wooden beams and other debris in the building. According to the agency, the search is carried out as accurately as possible, since any mistake can cause new landslides.
With excavators, rescuers removed the bodies of two women, a man and a child. They also located the corpse of a third woman, but were unable to get it out of the ruins.
On Saturday, three children were rescued alive. Emergency services said they were hospitalized but are in good condition. Civil Defense spokesperson Nawas Sabah Shaker said that part of the rock surrounding the mausoleum broke off on Saturday afternoon due to high humidity and fell on the building. The landslide caused the building, which is approximately 100 square meters, to lose about 30% of its total surface.
Both outside and inside the building, the army and the men of Hash al-Shaabi, a coalition of pro-Iran militias integrated with the security forces, provided security.
On Twitter, Iraqi President Barham Salih called the first responders heroes and urged them to mobilize all efforts to save people trapped under the rubble.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kazimi urged the interior minister to “directly supervise the work of first responders on the spot” and expressed the wish that the injured would recover soon.
The mausoleum is located about 25 km west of the Shia holy city of Karbala and attracts thousands of pilgrims every year. This is where Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, is buried. Shias regard him as Muhammad’s legitimate successor — the issue is at the heart of the schism with Sunni Islam.
The mausoleum is dedicated to Imam Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad and founding figure of Shia Islam.
According to Shia tradition, Imam Ali would have stopped here with his army on the way to the Battle of Siffin in 657 and created a spring of water there.