Skip to comments.Tempers flare against Islamic Republic in Bam, Iran
Posted on 12/27/2003 7:16:19 PM PST by freedom44
BAM, Iran, Dec 27 (AFP) - The man stares blankly at what was once his home and hardly flinches as his cigarette stub burns into his fingertips. As the extent of his personal tradegy sinks in, Mahmoud Galandari feels anger welling up inside.
Anger at a government he says has been too slow to mobilise. And anger that a bulldozer, and not the delicate hands of rescue teams, is searching for his 17 relatives buried beneath a pile of broken bricks, cracked concrete and twisted metal.
"I live in Shiraz. After hearing about the earthquake, I got on a bus and within hours I was here," recounted the 47-year-old as he stared at the collapsed home and coughed at another puff of diesel smoke mixed with the stench of death.
Under the rubble, he says, are the remains of his brothers, sisters, their spouses and children. Seventeen people in all, mercifully probably fast asleep when the quake struck Bam early on Friday.
"They're all dead," he muttered, as another body was hauled from under the rubble, wrapped in a blanket and neatly laid out on the street by Iranian Red Crescent workers who appear happy to let the bulldozer do the digging.
"And if they're not dead, they will be when that machine gets to them."
It may be an all too common complaint from disaster victims the world over that their respective governments react too slowly, but Galandari and the other desperate souls scouring this particular backstreet of Bam feel they have good reason to complain.
"We asked for help to clear the rubble. And all they did was send a bulldozer," he said, clearly seeing the use of such heavy digging equipment as a sign that there was no real effort to find survivors.
That slim hope of a miracle, in effect, was being denied by officials whose primary concern appears to be the aversion of a public health disaster associated with rotting corpses.
In Bam, the grim priority now appears to be finding dead bodies, loading them into pick-up trucks and driving them out of town for quick burial.
But the Iranian government's refusal to publicly acknowledge any need for foreign search teams has also fueled anger in a region that is one of Iran's poorest.
The leagues of volunteers also appear to be lacking in organisation. After all, organising the work of various government ministries, the army, air force, Revolutionary Guards and Basij volunteer militia is no simple task, even if the Islamic republic has been working on it for near-on 25 years.
That was highlighted earlier Saturday, when Iranian Health Minister Massoud Pezeshkian called on international donors not to send volunteer workers, but send drugs and equipment.
"We don't really need them (foreign volunteers). We have a lot of volunteers coming in from all over Iran, in fact so many that we are having difficulties coordinating," Pezeshkian said.
Hassan Salehi, a 32-year-old computer engineer who sped down from Tehran in his beat-up old car, wondered what was holding the aid effort up.
"The Red Crescent are slow. Even I beat them in getting here," he complained, saying relief teams only began to appear on the streets around where his parents and sister lived hours after he completed his 15-hour drive from the capital to the other end of the country.
"I've lost my family. It would be too simple to blame the government, but I am certainly not going to thank them for anything."
Homayoun Majd, a local labourer, chips into the increasingly heated conversation: "The government gives aid to Afghanistan and Iraq, and they can't even help their own people."
Furious nods of agreement all round, and tempers rise as the Red Crescent and their bulldozer declare the find of yet another "martyr".
But the tears and screams of a nearby young girl staring at muddied remains of what could be her father brings with it some calm to the crowd of angry, powerless onlookers.
What do you mean?
May God's Mercy be on the rest of the innocents.
You're just trying to cheer us up. Aren't you.
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