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Monday, December 29, 2003
Relief Rushed to Iran Quake Victims

Monday, December 29, 2003 After a massive earthquake struck Iran's southeastern Kerman Province Friday (Dec. 26), relief teams are focused on helping thousands left homeless in the devastated ancient city of Bam.

"The immediate priorities are shelter and water. We also need to guarantee the health of this vulnerable population," said Martin Zak, who is coordinating the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies operation for Bam.

"The Iranian Red Crescent was the first humanitarian actor on the scene. And, as part of the community, it will remain. The various components of the Red Cross and Red Crescent family have shown a tremendous solidarity and commitment to offer assistance to the population of Bam not just in the coming days, but also during the recovery and rehabilitation phases," Zak added.

As temperatures dip near freezing, residents huddled with donated blankets in donated tents. With no power, fuel or water in the city, people were being given bread to eat.

The earthquake is reported to have measured between 6.3 and 6.7 on the Richter scale, according to SED, the U.S. Geological Survey and Iranian sources, and powerful aftershocks continue to shake the region. The epicenter of the earthquake was in the Jamoriyan region, near the ancient city of Bam, about 115 miles (185 km) southeast of Kerman (capital city of Kerman Province) and 610 miles (975 km) southeast of Tehran.

Preliminary estimates of casualties and the number of injured and affected continue to fluctuate. While there is not yet an official estimate of the number of dead, reports from government sources and media outlets range as high as 50,000 people killed.

Virtually all of the mud and brick buildings and houses in Bam were destroyed, and those that remain standing threaten to crumble with each aftershock. The two existing hospitals in Bam were also destroyed and relief teams are evacuating the injured to nearby hospitals and medical centers in neighboring cities and provinces.
All relief flights have been given priority clearance by the Iranian government and the international airport in Kerman is being used for this purpose. Almost forty aircraft are operating to transport thousands of injured from Bam to Tehran and other provinces.

Since the earthquake struck, some 50 Iranian Red Crescent relief teams consisting of 500 relief workers and rescuers from the affected area as well as from neighboring provinces, such as Zahedan, Bandar Abbas and Yazd, have been dispatched to the region. Two days after the earthquake, more than 1,350 relief workers had been deployed to the area from abroad. More than 5,000 relief tents, 3,000 blankets, 536 cans of food, 580 kitchen sets, 9,000 heaters, 4,473 cartons of bread, 10 tons of sugar and 3 water tanks were immediately sent to the stricken area by Iranian Red Crescent trucks.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has mobilized around the globe to respond alongside the Iranian Red Crescent Society by providing more of the much needed items such as tents, sheets, blankets, kitchen sets, generators and kerosene heaters. A highly-trained Emergency Response Unit specializing in disaster relief is being deployed as a joint effort by the British Red Cross and Danish Red Cross, and the International Federation in Geneva has sent its own specialized team to coordinate information distribution and disaster management, and to assess plans for long-term rehabilitation in the region.

"This team will provide further assessment of the needs of the population affected, and the American Red Cross will continue to work with its partner national societies to assist the vulnerable in Iran," said Douglas K. Allen, director of the International Disaster Response Unit at the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies and their federation in Geneva have issued an appeal for 15.4 million Swiss francs (US$ 12.3 million) to bring desperately needed relief assistance to the victims.

Contacting Families in Iran
Phone communication has been partially restored, and those with family and loved ones in the region are being encouraged to continue to contact them by tradition means. When that falls through, the American Red Cross is there to help. Red Cross volunteers at your local Rhode Island Chapter will collect information on relatives believed to be missing and send these inquiries to staff at the American National Red Cross headquarters, who will then work directly with the Iranian Red Crescent society to locate missing family members.  Please call (401) 831-7700 if you think you may have a missing relative in that area.

You Can Support the International Response Fund
You can help those affected by the earthquake in Iran and countless other crises around the world each year by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, which will provide immediate relief and long-term support through supplies, technical assistance, and other support to those in need. Donate online or call toll free 1-800-HELP NOW (1-800-257-7575 for Spanish speakers) or you can mail in your gift to the American Red Cross International Response Fund, P. O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

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