Skip to comments.Plea For Bam Rescuers Not To Fly Home (1,000 still alive, buried?)
Posted on 12/31/2003 6:08:15 PM PST by blam
Plea for Bam rescuers not to fly home
James Astill in Bam and David Pallister
Thursday January 1, 2004
The Guardian (UK)
Rescue teams now leaving Bam were implored to stay by the Red Crescent's senior official in the city yesterday, because he believes up to 1,000 people could still be buried alive. In a rebuke to the United Nations' strategy of redirecting resources to relief work, Jalil Tabatabaei said last night: "These [UN] officials think everyone is dead because they have no experience [of earthquakes]. On my calculations, I am sure 1,000 trapped people are still alive; we will find many people over the next six days. The rescue teams have to keep going with all technical capabilities for at least 10 days after the earthquake."
Iranian rescuers appear to have found some survivors in the past 36 hours. Quoting officials in Bam, Iran's deputy health minister said five people were rescued on Tuesday.
Yesterday, an 80-year-old woman was pulled unhurt from the ruins of her house.
Dr Tabatabaei is a veteran of many earthquakes, including one in which his wife and daughter were killed. He said the cold temperatures could in certain cases increase chances of survival, by putting people in a coma - although that made them difficult to locate.
Rescue teams still in Bam, UN staff co-ordinating the search, and returning British doubted his calculations. "I'm not saying it's impossible there might be one or two left alive, but that would be exceptional," said Ted Pearn, manager of the UN mission in Bam. Returning British workers, part of a 70-strong team sent by the Department for International Development, estimated that, barring miracles, nobody survived more that 72 hours; the earthquake was last Friday.
John Holland, of Rapid UK, which had a team of 20 and two dogs, said: "After searching our area we were 99% sure nobody was left alive. Actually, there were too many teams; looking at the UN coordinating map, I would say the city had been searched twice.
"Conditions were horrific. With the powdered mud bricks of the collapsed buildings [buried] people would have died of asphyxiation."
Willie McMartin, of the International Rescue Corps, said: "It's unfair to say the international community have pulled out and done nothing.
"Yes, there can be miracles - but you have also to get relief to the thousands [of homeless] who could die of starvation or cold."
An official coordinating Britain's efforts also pointed out that among 1,600 rescue workers still in Bam on Tuesday night, several teams pledged to stay until the end of the week. At least 12 teams had left by yesterday, including the four from Britain. None expected any longer to encounter survivors - a view seconded by the UN officials, and by Red Crescent officials who held a cordinating conference on Tuesday. "We're just trying to pin-point where the dead bodies are," said Ulav Lea, a Norwegian dog handler.
The foreign teams, equipped with sniffer-dogs, thermal and sonar devices, and heavy-lifting gear, had by yesterday rescued only one person, pulled from debris within 24 hours of the quake. Most are thought to have died within hours - suffocated under the rubble, or killed by the cold.
However, Mohammed Ismael Akbari, the deputy health minister, said that four or five people were rescued by soldiers in Barabat, on Bam's outskirts - almost 120 hours after the quake levelled their two houses. "We still need the foreign rescue teams, I will ask them to be here," Dr Akbari told the Guardian.
Mr Pearn commented: "We're not saying anyone's lying. But, whenever we hear one of these reports, we investigate and find that the rescuers were Iranian teams and then there are no details."
An American mission arrived early yesterday having dropped off their rescue complement en route in Kuwait. "The government informed us it was too late, the rescue phase was over," said spokesman Steve Catlan. The team, the first official contact between the US and Iran since 1979, downplayed their significance. "I'm just a humanitarian, we were not briefed on any politics," said Mr Catlan.
As they erected tents emblazoned with the Stars and Stripes for a field hospital, a crowd gathered to watch. "For Americans to come and help us in such a situation, I really appreciate it - and all Iranians appreciate it," said a cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Faiz.
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