Bam: The Catastrophe Continues

| March 2004

BAM, Iran -- Bam lives on. But more than two months after the destructive and deadly earthquake which in just 15 seconds killed 43,200 and injured another 30,000 of the city's 125,000 residents, the survivors still find themselves in a state of shock, desperation, hopelessness and fear of what the future holds.

'Our greatest worry right now is that Bam will disappear from the world's conscience. Bam needs all the support and attention it can get,' says Iain Logan, who supervises the Red Cross' daily work in Bam. Logan emphasizes that the work has only just begun.

Choking on dust

Street scenes in the middle of Bam are still hard to imagine. Families live along the roads and in the medians in tents supplied by the Red Crescent. Traffic is an odd mixture of huge Land Rovers driven by United Nations and Red Cross workers and Bam's own cars transporting people around the city despite their collapsed roofs and windows void of any glass. The houses are almost all gone. The quake wrecked everything and reduced Bam to a pulverized city. 'Not everyone died of injuries on impact,' explains Johannes Hoffman, Danish camp manager for the Red Cross. 'Many choked to death. Two weeks after the tragedy the air here was still filled with dust from the collapsed houses.' The old mud houses that provided perfect protection against the burning sun turned into pure deathtraps when the menace came from below.

Emergency relief workers in Bam agree that they have never seen anything like this. 'Normally, families neighbors and friends are first on the scene to help after an earthquake,' explained a volunteer from the Red Crescent who didn't want to be named. 'But it was different in Bam. No one was left here since the accident took a toll on everyone.' Not even the city's emergency preparedness was able to help. Two out of three hospitals collapsed, and half of all doctors, nurses and local Red Crescent volunteers were killed.

An epidemic threatens