Bam Death Toll Close to 35,000: IRGC Official (Tehran Times)
UNITED NATIONS (FinalCall.com) – The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, issued a statement through a spokesman, saying he was distressed to learn of the devastating casualties and damage caused by the December 26 earthquake in southeastern Iran. He conveyed his deepest condolences and sympathy to the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the victims of the disaster.
A UN spokesman said that the organization had mobilized international assistance to support the Iranian government. The UN Country Team in Tehran has sent two teams to the affected area. In addition, a UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team has been dispatched to help coordinate relief efforts. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has made an initial grant of $90,000.
However, at Final Call press time, Reuters reported that “many” international rescue teams had begun packing up. “The first phase is over,” Thomas Krimm, spokesman for Germany’s THW disaster relief organization, told Reuters. Observers said at least 30,000 are dead, while 30,000 people were injured in the earthquake, which reportedly measured 6.7 on the Richter Scale. Aid workers said they predict at least 100,000 are homeless.
Aid workers also report that hardly any buildings are left standing in the ancient city of Bam, and that survivors were leaving in record numbers. People were seen leaving with refrigerators, luggage and carpets placed on top of their cars. A housewife in Tehran told reporters that she had lost 60 family members in the quake.
Observers have reported that round-the-clock relief efforts have been hindered by piles of bodies in the streets, overflowing cemeteries, cold nights, rain, aftershocks and alleged looting. The chance of finding someone alive was rapidly fading, they said. But rescuers did report that they had found a baby girl “alive” in her dead mother’s arms. Her mother, they said, had been buried under a building.
Press reports are also circulating that Iran’s president, Mohammad Khatami, appealed for help from anywhere except Israel. Iran rejected offers of international assistance when a quake killed 36,000 back in 1990, observers said.
The United States sent a plane with aid to Iran December 28, which was the first American flight into Iran since the Iranian hostage crisis ended in 1981.
Washington broke ties with Iran after 52 Americans were held hostage in 1979 at the U.S. Embassy for 444 days. Egypt, which also broke off diplomatic relations in 1979, sent four planeloads of relief funds. Six Gulf nations have pledged $400 million to help Iran.
In the meantime, the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team in Bam finished their initial review of the damages. They confirmed that the majority of destroyed buildings were of the traditional mud bricks typical to the area. Limited amounts of supplies were being moved around the area, and two distribution sites appeared to be well-organized, the UN agency said.
Electrical power has been restored to certain areas of Bam and major water pipelines have been brought back into service. Work is ongoing to re-establish power, water and communication links.