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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

IRAN-IRAN: Earthquake relief having an impact

BAM, 1 January 2004 (IRIN) - Teams of Iranian Red Crescent Society volunteers (IRCS) have been distributing ration books to families in each of Bam's twelve districts, six days after the devastating earthquake that claimed an estimated 40,000 lives hit the city. Survivors will be given essentials such as rice, sugar, oil, tea and vegetables, as well as blankets, cooking equipment and sanitary products. After a concern over shelter, the IRCS have also been providing more tents, having allocated over 90,000 by Thursday.

"We have had some difficulties due to the large scale of the disaster but now the relief work is going relatively well. The main problem will be rehabilitation and reconstruction of the future and how we will link relief to the rehabilitation phase," Mustafa Mohaghegh, the IRCS international relations coordinator, told IRIN in Bam.

The Malaysian Medical Relief Society (MMRS), an aid team consisting of eight people including a neurosurgeon, a paediatrician and an architect, are carrying out an assessment for a rehabilitation programme. "Because this is still the early stage of relief we would like to consider all angles and we would like to ensure that whatever funds received from the public is utilised in the most impactful manner," Mohammad Shah, the chief operating officer of MMRS, told IRIN.

They have already pinpointed a 200-bed hospital in Kerman, the provincial capital 175 km northwest of the blighted city, that is treating 600 patients - it is desperately in need surgeons and medical equipment. "We would rather do elective or corrective surgery than doing a general practice service - that's where our expertise is," he said.

Mid-term relief operations will be helped by Washington's decision to ease sanctions on Iran for a 90-day period. The measure is designed to allow US citizens and groups to donate money directly to the relief effort, without clearing their gifts through the treasury department.

As the long-term relief effort moves forward, more stories are emerging about people rescued from the rubble. "Today [Thursday] I can confirm that a 45-year-old man was rescued and a pregnant woman. She was transferred straight to hospital where she delivered a baby," Mohaghegh said. On the same day, 27-year old Yadollah Sadaat, was also confirmed saved after being sheltered by a fallen wardrobe since the previous week's earthquake.

IRCS volunteers were excavating bodies from a collapsed house when they came across the man, blinking and mumbling, next to six dead family members. Sadaat suffered a broken hip during his ordeal and was taken from Bam to the Iranian capital Tehran for further treatment. Iranian state radio reported the rescues of sixteen living people on Tuesday and Wednesday. Some of these have been confirmed, but relief officials say privately that some stories should be treated with caution.

Although most of the international search and rescue teams have returned home, there is evidently work left to be done. "Usually after the first five or six days the search and rescue teams wind down, but we have still kept people on the ground. Today we were able to rescue the man and the lady, which was a very pleasant surprise," said
Mohaghegh.

More good news was reported from the shattered city on New Year's Day, as five children were born in international field hospitals, and a couple was married in a Red Cross tent. Three baby boys were delivered by French medics, and two baby girls by a Ukrainian medical team. The wedding party had been planned for Friday, and finally went ahead at the insistence of the groom's father.

Theme(s): (IRIN) Natural Disasters

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This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004



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