Positive Environment News

Survivors Found Six Days After Bam Earthquake

Date: 02-Jan-04
Country: IRAN
Author: Edmund Blair and Christian Oliver

"You can call it a miracle or anything you like," said Red Crescent worker Ali Asghar Namdari after shopkeeper Yadollah Saadat was found trapped under a wardrobe, blinking and mumbling, alongside the corpses of six dead relatives.

"I'm just happy. At least we have saved one life. I have been in war and through many struggles and I've never been so happy."

Iran state radio said a nine-year-old girl covered with dust and dirt was pulled from the rubble of her family's flattened house yesterday morning. She was described as in fragile condition.

The surprise rescues coincided with preparations for a commemoration for those killed in Iran's worst natural disaster for at least 13 years. Some government officials have said the death toll from Friday's pre-dawn quake could rise to 50,000.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was due to hold a memorial service yesterday afternoon in Bam for those killed in the tragedy.

U.N. officials said about 40,000 people were now left in Bam - most spending the bitterly cold nights in tents - out of an original population of 103,000. The remainder were either dead, missing, in hospital or had left town.

A medic held the face of the 27-year-old shopkeeper, found in the north of the city which lies 625 miles southeast of Tehran, and asked if he could say his name. The man mumbled "Yadollah" several times in reply.

"They were taking out the corpses and they found him. They thought he was dead and then they realized he was alive," the man's wife, Fatimeh Asghari, 22, told Reuters as she sat next to Saadat, being examined by medics and treated for a broken hip.

"I can't express how happy I am," she said.


The city, in which 90 percent of the mud-brick buildings were either destroyed or damaged by the pre-dawn December 26 quake, has been divided into 21 sectors and Red Crescent workers were carrying out a precise census of survivors and their needs.

Survivors will be given ration cards to ensure an equitable distribution of the tonnes of aid pouring into Iran from dozens of donor countries, including Iran's arch-foe the United States.

An 80-strong U.S. team - the first U.S. government aid workers in the country since Washington broke ties with Iran shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution - continued setting up a field medical facility yesterday.

The U.S. team was greeted with flowers from local officials this week and an enthusiastic reception from residents.

"Folks in this area have gone through so much with this earthquake. But the hospitality has been truly amazing," said Dewey Perks, a liaison officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

U.S. involvement in the relief effort marked something of a thaw in relations between the two countries. The U.S. Treasury said banking restrictions on Iran were being eased temporarily to speed the flow of humanitarian aid.

Overnight, survivors huddling against the bitter cold were jolted again by several aftershocks. "It felt like an underground train hitting a bad piece of track," one witness said after four aftershocks shook the ancient Silk Road city.

Iranian scientists said yesterday they had revised the magnitude of the December 26 tremor up to 6.8, from a previous estimate of 6.3 on the Richter scale.

© Thomson Reuters 2004 All rights reserved

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