the beginning of this month Iranian government officials
in Iran warned that fatalities resulting from the
Bam earthquake could reach 50,000. The quake measured
in at 6.6 on the Richter scale. If these estimates
are accurate then Bam has been the site of the highest
earthquake spawned death toll since the Chinese city
of Tang-shan lost an estimated 242,419 of its population
in 1976. It amounts to approximately 25% of the combined
population of the Iranian city and its surrounding
towns and villages. While the country's president
has sought to pitch the anticipated death rate considerably
lower, aid workers were not optimistic.
report conveyed a sense of the devastation: every
village within a couple of miles north, west and east
of Bam had been levelled. Even eight miles outside
the city, houses were destroyed. Five miles
east of Bam, in Sfikan, one man who had lost his family
said, every house here has been destroyed, every
family has lost three, four, five people. Mr
Hechmat Hashemi, of the Iranian Red Crescent, made
an appeal: the situation is very serious and
we need foreign help. One of the most graphic
images to emerge was that of a Bam father carrying
his two dead children, one in each arm, to a cemetery
on the outskirts of the city. Things don't get much
worse than that.
the city's two main hospitals destroyed surgery is
being performed on the open street. Many of the injured
are being flown to hospitals as distant as 600 miles.
International rescue teams have met with limited success,
pulling 30,000 dead from the ruins. Stories of children
being pushed through the rubble by dying parents who
held on for that very moment and then expired have
been few and far between. And the main energy is now
being directed to relief. In the midst of this humanitarian
drive, political considerations and acrimonies are
never far away. While expressing appreciation for
the aid that has arrived in the country, its leaders
remain suspicious of American involvement in relief
activity, alleging that it is politically rather than
humanitarian driven. American teams have nevertheless
continued to work on the ground. At the same time,
Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, which
documents repression and censorship since the 1979
theocratic revolution that overthrew the murderous
Shah, claimed that much of the blame for the present
havoc lies squarely with the Iranian government. She
points out that a member of parliament from Sanandaj
province complained publicly that officials had ignored
a bill that focused on measures to limit damage and
loss of life from earthquakes. The measure was proposed
after a Bam-type earthquake in his region in 1990
left 40,000 people dead. Nafisi further claims that
there is evidence that female doctors offering medical
assistance have been turned away as a result of the
countrys strict religious code.
the truth, little expense was put into the construction
of Bam's housing and office buildings. According to
the Observer, corruption was 'rampant' and local building
regulations 'barely enforced.' A profit-driven disregard
by the Iranian equivalent of the Belfast building
firm, Rooney, for public safety prompted one experienced
observer to comment that earthquakes don't kill
people, but buildings and builders of inferior buildings
do. This echoed a sentiment expressed by a Turkish
journalist in 1999 after an earthquake wreaked devastation
in his country: 'corruption kills people, not earthquakes.'
As a result of that disaster some took to descibing
it as a class quake, 'because of the accuracy with
which it struck down the poor.'
is a serious need for aid efforts to continue unabated.
UN officials say about 40,000 survivors are now living
in rescue tents and are experiencing bitterly cold
nights. The Irish Red Cross estimates up to 400,000
people will need immediate assistance and that 200,000
people will need help for at least the next six months.
Mr Frederick Lyons, the UN resident co-ordinator,
said the UN would appeal for funds to address the
primary needs of shelter, food and water. Amongst
badly needed equipment are tarpaulins, cooking equipment,
medicine and water purification facilities.
relief effort is made no easier by those with an eye
for opportunity intent on maximising their position
regardless of the human cost they inflict. Armed men
are reported to have entered Bam in vans and made
off with Red Crescent tents. Local people have complained
that whoever is stronger takes the aid.
with a friend last Sunday, we discussed what we could
do to assist. The question of aid busied our minds.
We both know that the easy way out is to take the
principled stand of blaming global capital,
dip into our pockets, hand the money over the bar
counter, and wait on Trotsky to come over the Black
Mountain chanting 'socialism.' Yet, the fact that
the world is governed in such a way as not to lend
itself to the widespread alleviation of poverty and
human misery is hardly an excuse for those of us who
can do something to forego it for the dubious consolation
of ideologically sitting on our hands.
those who wish to assist financially the plight of
the Iranians of Bam, some of the aid agencies have
provided details of how this might be done.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi is collecting
and distributing funds: Account No. 8080, Saderat
Bank of Iran, Yousef-abad Ave, Kalantary Square Branch,Tehran,
To make a donation to Concern's Bam Iran emergency
appeal log on to www.concern.net
or call 1850 410510.
Contributions to the Irish Red Cross can be made on
1850 507070, or online at www.redcross.ie,
or by post to the Irish Red Cross Iran, Appeal, 16
Merrion Square, Dublin 2.
Trócaire donations can be made online at www.trocaire.org.
On the recommendation of Pedram
Moallemian, a Blanket contributor, contact Mercy
Corps at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Index: Current Articles + Latest News and Views + Book Reviews +
Letters + Archives