On a residential street
in Baravat, 5 kilometres south of Bam, Zolaikha Baniagardy
stoops by the Iranian Red Crescent water tanker. The elderly
woman’s voice shakes as she recounts what happened at
5:28 a.m. on 26 December 2003. “I was saying my morning
prayers when I heard this loud sound like an airplane and
the earth began to shake,” says Zolaikha, as she dries
her tears with the corner of her chador. “The only thing
I could do was run outside, leaving my entire family to die
in our house. Who will look after me now that I have no one
Zolaikha is but one of the thousands
of victims of the earthquake that struck the city of Bam in
the province of Kerman in south-eastern Iran. It was Iran’s
deadliest earthquake in recorded history, killing more than
41,000 people, injuring 30,000, leaving more than 75,000 people
homeless and 85 per cent of the homes destroyed. Livelihoods
for most residents have been lost with the destruction of
the city’s tourist attraction—the 2,000 year-old
Arg E Bam citadel and the damage of 25 out of 64 quanats—part
of an ancient system of irrigation canals providing water
to the date palm farms and orange groves.
Providing Search and Rescue and Relief
Virtually all the dwellings in the ancient desert city were
built with layers of mud bricks that crumbled instantly upon
people as they slept in their beds. Within two hours of the
disaster, local Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) search
and rescue teams were mobilized. Their colleagues from other
parts of the country and international teams quickly joined
them. The IRCS teams pulled more than a thousand survivors
from the rubble.
Many of the injured were evacuated
in IRCS helicopters from the quake-stricken region to Tehran,
Shiraz and other cities in Kerman.
IRCS volunteers also helped with the
task of burying the tens of thousands of dead in mass graves
— preventing the outbreak of disease. The victims’
photos were taken to help their family members identify them.
As the leader in the operation, the
IRCS volunteers and staff coordinated all relief assistance
– mobilizing more than 12,400 medical staff that treated
some 42,500 patients, and distributing hundreds of tonnes
of tents, blankets, heaters and food to more than 40,000 families.
The city of Bam was divided into 12 zones, with a separate
IRCS provincial team working as a unit in each zone.