Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 July 2004



(2004), "Earthquakes", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 13 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited



24 December 2003 – Iran

Two relatively strong earthquakes of five on the Richter scale that jolted Qom, South Tehran, and Markazi province, central Iran, earlier today also shook certain parts of the capital and the city of Karaj. Mohammad Mokhtari, the dean of Seismological College of International Research Centre on Earthquakes, told IRNA that an earthquake measuring 4.5 degrees on the Richter scale had been registered in Tehran at 07.20, local time, with its epicentre at 118 km south-west of the capital. Mokhtari said another quake that had hit Markazi province also today had shaken Karaj, west of Tehran. He said the epicentre of the quake was located in Mamout, Markazi province. There have been no reports of any casualty or damage to property caused by the quakes.

26 December 2003 A powerful earthquake struck the ancient Silk Road city of Bam in south-eastern Iran today, killing at least 4,000 people and injuring some 30,000 others, state television said. “This is only an initial statistic”, the television said, indicating the death toll was expected to rise further. Iranian television said about 70 per cent of the buildings in the historic city, a popular tourist destination 600 miles south-east of the capital, Tehran, had collapsed in the earthquake which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale. Witnesses said many houses had been flattened and squares were packed with homeless people huddled in blankets to protect them from the cold. Corpses shrouded in blankets were hauled into vans. State media said two of Bam’s hospitals had collapsed, crushing many of the staff, and remaining hospitals were full. The wounded were now being ferried to neighbouring towns. Many people were believed to be buried under debris, state media said, appealing for people to donate blood. “There are a lot of dead and injured in Bam city and everything is being done to take them out”, Kerman province governor Mohammad Ali Karimi said. Russia and Germany swiftly offered help to try to find any survivors under the rubble of collapsed buildings. Russia’s Emergencies Ministry, which is highly skilled in reacting to the country’s frequent natural and man-made disasters, has rapid response units of doctors, paramedics and dog-handlers – who can find trapped people. A large part of Bam’s ancient citadel, one of Iran’s best-loved tourist magnets, had been destroyed, Karimi said. The citadel, dating back 2,000 years, contained fortifications, towers, buildings, stables and a mosque. Witnesses said the road to Bam, a city and environs of some 200,000 people, was choked with ambulances and people desperate to find family members. The quake struck about 05.30 hrs when most people in the city would probably have been asleep. The government mounted a major rescue operation in the date-growing area where houses are traditionally made of mud-brick. The official IRNA news agency said Red Crescent rescue teams had been dispatched to Kerman province. Another quake, measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale, hit the oil producing town of Masjed Soleyman in the south-western Khuzestan province. IRNA said there were no reports of damage.

27 December 2003 International rescue teams were flying into Iran today to join a search for survivors from an earthquake that devastated the ancient Silk Road city of Bam, killing more than 20,000 people. A 60-strong British rescue team with sniffer dogs, special cameras and listening devices left London last night and was due to arrive in Kerman, near Bam, early today. US President George W. Bush and other world leaders rushed to offer whatever help they could to the Islamic Republic. The pre-dawn quake yesterday also injured about 50,000 people, government officials said as rescuers tore at rubble for anyone buried alive. The quake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale and struck when many people were still asleep in their homes. About 70 per cent of Bam, a popular tourist spot some 1,000 km south-east of Tehran with an historic citadel and other centuries-old buildings, was levelled. Many residents were feared trapped under the rubble and the city of 200,000 in Iran’s Kerman province was without water, power or fuel as night temperatures headed below freezing. “The death toll is now more than 20,000”, said a senior government official, as survivors lit fires to stay warm in the open amid the mass of flattened mud-brick houses. Survivors using their bare hands joined search teams tearing at rubble. A spokesman for Bush said Washington would be offering humanitarian aid, and a US official said the State Department would be announcing an aid package soon. The United Nations, European Union countries, Russia, China, Poland, Japan, Turkey and others also heeded Iran’s appeals for help from the international community. They pledged doctors, medical supplies, financial aid, and rescuers with sniffer dogs and equipment to locate survivors. “We need help, otherwise we will be pulling corpses, not the injured, out of the rubble”, Brigadier Mohammadi, commander of the army in south-east Iran, told state television. State media said two hospitals had collapsed, crushing many of the staff, and remaining hospitals were full. The injured were being ferried to neighbouring towns. Mechanised diggers hollowed out trenches where the dead were hastily buried without rites. A large part of the ancient citadel was destroyed, Kerman province governor Mohammad Ali Karimi said. Dating back 2,000 years, it had sprawling fortifications, towers, buildings, stables and a mosque. It was the city’s main tourist attraction. “The city of Bam must be built from scratch”, said its governor Ali Shafiee. Houses in the date-growing area are traditionally made from mud-brick, making them vulnerable to earthquakes.

28 December 2003 Top foreign rescuers warned today that hopes were fading for any more survivors from the earthquake in Bam which killed at least 20,000 people. US President George W. Bush’s administration began sending in military plane-loads of aid and held rare talks with a government it has shunned diplomatically for two decades. From China to South Africa, Britain to Australia, nations rushed to respond to Iran’s appeals and sent rescue workers, doctors, tents and cash to help deal with what appeared to be the world’s most lethal earthquake in at least ten years. Cemeteries in Bam were overflowing with corpses and hundreds of bodies had been tipped into trenches hollowed out by mechanical diggers, witnesses said. The pre-dawn quake on Friday (26 December) also injured about 30,000 people when it flattened about 70 per cent of the mostly mud-brick buildings in the ancient Silk Road city. Bam Airport was converted into a makeshift hospital and pavements were lined with injured, some on intravenous drips. Witnesses saw some looting when vans of young men armed with pistols and Kalashnikovs drove into Bam and stole Red Crescent tents, as residents said relief efforts were chaotic. President Mohammad Khatami said Iran could not cope on its own, as authorities battled to accommodate thousands of homeless people on a second bitterly cold night. “Everyone is doing their best to help, but the disaster is so huge that I believe no matter how much is done we cannot meet the people’s expectations”, Khatami said on state television. The Interior Ministry confirmed yesterday that the death toll stood at 20,000, but the chaos and scale of the disaster made it difficult for officials to produce exact casualty figures. Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari said he could not make any forecasts about the final toll. However, he said: “In a city of something under 100,000 people, 70 per cent of buildings collapsed. With this scale of damage, the number of dead and injured will be very high”. The quake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale and struck early on Friday when many people were at home asleep in Bam, some 1,000 km south-east of the capital Tehran. Ari Vakkilainnen, leading a Finnish rescue team, said only 30 people were dug out alive overnight. “I do not think that many people are alive because of the structure of the buildings”, he said. “Someone could still be alive after 72 hours, but if they are losing blood they need water”. A US Air force Lockheed C-130 (Hercules) landed in Kerman, near Bam, with a first shipment of medical and humanitarian supplies. The US military said it planned to ship in around 70 tonnes of aid from logistics sites in the Gulf, in place for the US-led war on Iraq and its reconstruction.

29 December 2003 Iran’s Supreme Leader vowed today to rebuild the city of Bam, as rescue workers all but gave up hope of finding more survivors beneath the rubble left by an earthquake which killed up to 30,000 people. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei flew to Bam, 600 miles south-east of Tehran, and pledged to return the ancient Silk Road city to its former glory. President Mohammad Khatami was also due in Bam this afternoon. Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Hanjani said that by this morning 25,000 victims of the earthquake had been buried. “Given the scale of the damage the number of casualties will rise in coming hours”, he told the official IRNA news agency. Round-the-clock relief efforts are being hindered by the piles of bodies in the streets, overflowing cemeteries, bitter cold at night, rain, aftershocks and some looting. “I believe the (death) toll will reach 30,000”, said a government official in Kerman Province, where the quake struck before dawn on Friday (26 December), destroying about 70 per cent of Bam’s mainly mud-brick buildings while people were asleep inside them. Rescue workers digging for the fourth day said they were no longer finding survivors, only the mangled remains of people killed in the world’s most lethal quake for at least a decade. Some 2,000 people had been pulled out alive, IRNA said. However, Bam’s collapsed mud-brick buildings left few air pockets and so there have been proportionally fewer survivors than in earthquakes in places where reinforced concrete was more common, rescuers said. “The way buildings are built here makes it very unlikely that we will find people because of the bricks and dirt”, said Tagin Karin, a 33-year-old Algerian rescue worker, whose team dragged dozens of survivors from Algeria’s earthquake in May. Some 30,000 people were injured in the quake, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale, and aid workers put the number of homeless at more than 100,000.

30 December 2003 Iran, backed by a massive international aid effort, has turned its full attention to the plight of tens of thousands left bereaved and homeless by Friday’s (26 December) earthquake that killed up to 30,000 people. Rescuers said yesterday a six-month-old girl had been pulled alive from the rubble of a flattened home in the ancient Silk Road city of Bam, 600 miles south-east of Tehran. However, search and rescue teams from 28 countries, including most of the European Union’s 15 members, Japan, Russia and even Iran’s arch-foe the USA, began to pack up their sophisticated equipment last night as hopes of finding any more survivors all but evaporated. “The first phase is over”, said Thomas Krimm, spokesman of Germany’s THW disaster relief organisation. “That means the search and rescue teams are winding down their activities, although they are ready to engage if they get new indications from the local population. It’s just that the chance of finding someone alive is steadily falling”. Officials quoted on Iranian state television said on Tuesday they had recovered and buried 28,000 people, most in makeshift graves with little ceremony. Whole families were killed in their beds when the pre-dawn earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale hit south-eastern Iran, sending the mostly mud-brick homes crashing to the ground. The quake was the world’s deadliest in more than a decade. Officials say they expect the final death toll to reach 30,000. Planeloads of tents, blankets, mattresses and emergency food rations arrived every hour at the small regional airport as Iran, relatively isolated politically and economically from the West, opened its doors to international aid. US military cargo aircraft were among the first to arrive. The first US military aircraft to land in Iran in more than 20 years carried disaster response experts and tonnes of emergency supplies, US officials said yesterday. However, they stressed the move was strictly in response to the humanitarian disaster and reflected no change in policy. Egypt, which like the USA severed diplomatic ties with Iran a quarter of a century ago, has also flown in aid.

4 January 2004 An earthquake measuring 3.5 degrees on the open-ended Richter scale hit southern part of the city of Bam in the south-eastern Kerman province at 21.51, local time, yesterday. No report has yet received on possible damage created by the earthquake.

6 January 2004 An earthquake measuring 4.8 degrees on the open-ended Richter scale jolted the cities of Izeh and Masjed Soleyman in the southern province of Khuzestan for the fourth time today. The seismological base of the Geophysics Institute, affiliated to Tehran University, said the tremor occurred at 10.01, local time, 06.31, UTC. There were no reports of casualties or damage. Three other tremors measuring 4.5, 4 and 3.2 degrees on the Richter scale had already hit the city earlier today.

7 January 2004 The cities of Izeh and Masjed Soleiman, in the southern Khuzestan province, that have been shaken by repeated quakes since 06.00, yesterday, were hit for the 13th time by another tremor measuring 4.6 degrees on the open-ended Richter scale. The seismological network of Tehran University’s Geophysics Institute said the tremor occurred today at 07.48, local time. There have been no reports of probable damage or loss of life caused by the 13th tremor.

7 January 2004 Several villages in south-western Iran were damaged today when 11 mild earthquakes struck the area in quick succession, state radio reported. The quakes measured between 3.2 and 4.8 on the open-ended Richter scale, but caused no casualties, the radio said, but nevertheless carried an appeal for locals to be prepared for a possible major earthquake. The report said Izeh was hit by seven tremors, while the nearby oil and gas centre of Masjed Soleiman was hit by four. The towns are situated about 450km south-west of Tehran in Khuzestan province. “In five villages in the area of Masjed Soleiman, houses suffered damage of between 10 and 50 per cent. In Izeh, homes and cowsheds were also damaged”, the radio said.

16 January 2004 The earthquake which flattened the ancient Silk Road city of Bam killed 41,000 people and the death toll could rise further, a senior political aide has told the official IRNA news agency. “Up to this point 41,000 have been killed and the toll could reach 45,000”, Mohammad Mohammadi Golpayegani, aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying today. A pre-dawn quake razed the citadel city on 26 December, demolishing most of its mud-brick houses. Official sources earlier this month confirmed the deaths of more than 30,000 people.

19 January 2004 Three strong earthquakes shook mountainous areas in central and southern Iran early today, causing fearful residents to spend a freezing night outdoors, the official IRNA news agency reported. The tremors caused no casualties or damage. The strongest, measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale, occurred at 03.14 today in the southern region of Dashti. The story was similar in the central town of Shar-e Raza, near the city of Isfahan, which was shaken by a tremor with a magnitude of 4.2 just half an hour earlier. IRNA said a third quake also measuring 4.2 hit less than two minutes later in Broujen, about 50 kilometres from Shahr-e Reza.

21 January 2004 A relatively strong earthquake with an intensity of four degrees on the open-ended Richter scale jolted the city of Bam in Kerman province yesterday. The seismological base of the geophysics institute, affiliated to the Tehran University, said the tremor occurred at 16.52, local time. There were no reports of any casualty or damage caused by the quake.

21 January 2004 An earthquake measuring 3.6 degrees on the open-ended Richter scale jolted the town of Sardasht in the southern province of Khuzestan last night. The seismological base of the Geophysics Institute, affiliated to Tehran University, said the tremor occurred at 23.56, local time. Meanwhile, another earthquake measuring 3.4 degrees on the open-ended Richter scale hit southern parts of Fars province last night. The seismological base of the Geophysics Institute said the tremor, epicentre in Larestan town, occurred at 19.32, local time. There were no reports of any casualties or damage to properties caused by the quakes.

21 January 2004 A moderate earthquake measuring 4.9 on the open-ended Richter scale jolted an area near the quake-devastated city of Bam in southeast Iran early today, the state news agency IRNA reported. The quake, which hit Sardouiyeh district 90 kilometres west of Bam at 04.45 hrs, sent residents in the icy mountainous area running from their homes and left many outdoors for the rest of the night amid fears another quake could follow. The quake caused some material damage but no casualties, IRNA said, adding that relief teams had been sent to assess the full impact of the tremor.

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