Press Releases

    28 December 2004

    Bam:  Reducing Quake Damage Possible, Says United Nations

    NEW YORK, 25 December (OCHA) -- One year after the earthquake that devastated Bam, Iran, most of the surviving 155,000 inhabitants of that city are still living in tents and temporary shelters.

    On 26 December 2003, the quake, which measured 6.3 to 6.7 on the Richter Scale, destroyed some 80 per cent of Bam’s buildings in 12 seconds, and killed more than 26,000 people.  The majority of those who died or who were injured were crushed to death by falling rubble in their homes.  The quake also destroyed or damaged all 131 schools in or around the city, as well as all heath centres and hospitals.  Despite the frequent occurrence of deadly quakes in Iran, many houses built out of mud bricks did not stand up to the effects of the earthquake.

    “In the immediate aftermath of this tragedy, there was an impressive display of solidarity of response on the part of numerous national and international agencies”, said Jan Egeland, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator.  The Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health, Army and the IRCS launched a massive rescue and relief operation, and more than 1,600 Search and Rescue, Health and Relief personnel from 44 countries arrived.  The United Nations, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and various non-governmental organizations mobilized aid, while about 60 countries provided in-kind and cash contributions.

    “However, we also need to act before disasters happen.  The Bam tragedy underscores the need for increased attention to disaster prevention and risk reduction”, Mr. Egeland emphasized.  “There is need to pay more attention to essential buildings and infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals, which are key when an earthquake strikes”, said Salvano Briceno, Director of the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.  “Architects, mayors and local and regional land planners have to work hand in hand to reduce vulnerability and to design safer buildings”, he added.

    These issues will be discussed at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction that will take place in Kobe, Japan from 18 to 22 January 2005, where a plan of action will be adopted for the next 10 years.  More than 2,000 people from over 150 countries will be present at the World Conference, many of whom will be coming from disaster-prone communities to share their own experiences and ideas.

    For further information, please call:  Stephanie Bunker, OCHA New York, tel.:  917 367 5126, mobile:  917 892 1679; Elizabeth Byrs, OCHA Geneva, tel.: 41 22 917 2653, mobile: 41(0) 79 473 4570.

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