Deadly Earthquake Jolts City in Southeast Iran

DEATH TOLL -  43,000+


Published: December 26, 2003

EARTHQUAKE on 26/12/2003 at 01:56 (UTC)
SOUTHERN IRAN 620 km NW Masqat
Latitude = 29.05 N
Longitude = 58.34 E
Origin Time = 01:56:55.8 (UTC)
Depth = 30 Km
RMS = 1.20 sec
Gap = 80 degrees
95% confidence ellipse: - Semi major = 9.3 Km
- Semi minor = 4.8 Km
- Azimuth of major axis = 174 degrees
Number of data used = 332
Preliminary location computed on Fri Dec 26 03:46:52 2003 (UTC)
Done by Jocelyn GUILBERT

All magnitudes estimations :
mb6.0 (GFZ) MS6.8 (GSRC) MS6.8 (GSSA) M 5.9 (INGV)
mb5.6 (LED) mb5.9 (MAD) M 6.7 (NEIC) mb5.4 (NEWS)
mb5.3 (NEWS) mb6.0 (NOR) mb5.7 (ODC) mb5.3 (RNS)
mb5.9 (SED)

Powerful earthquake jolted the city of Bam in southeastern Iran today, destroying residential areas where Iranian officials feared thousands of people were killed and trapped under rubble.

Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency said in a report on its Web site that the earthquake registered 6.3 on the Richter scale and destroyed about 60 percent of the homes in the city, about 610 miles southeast of Tehran. The United States Geological Survey put the magnitude of the earthquake at 6.7.

"The historic quarter of the city has been completely destroyed and caused great human loss," the director general of public relations at Iran's Red Crescent organisation, Mehran Nourbakhsh, said.

Reuters news agency quoted Iran's state television as saying in an initial report that at least 4,000 people were killed and some 30,000 were injured.

In remarks to Iran's news agency, Mr. Nourbakhsh said water, electricity and telephone communications were cut off in Bam and at least four other cities. This made it difficult to verify the exact number of dead, but IRNA reported that more than 90 percent of the victims who were taken to the capital city of Kerman province were in critical condition.

Mohammad Ali Karimi, the governor of Kerman province, where Bam is located, told IRNA: "The situation in Bam is worrying. The scale of the damage and deaths is widespread and the number of victims is high.

"We have no exact information about the scale of the damage or deaths yet since all telephone communications with the cities of Bam and Kerman had been cut off," he said.

Hospitals collapsed on medical staff during the quake, which was followed by waves of strong aftershocks. Television footage from the area showed flattened houses and people searching the rubble.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is sending a team to Iran today and on Saturday to assist in the coordination of international relief efforts and to assess the damage, said Rudolf Mueller, an OCHA officer, in a telephone interview.

Mr. Mueller said that Iran has a strong domestic rescue and medical capacity of its own to deal with earthquakes, but this time the country has asked for assistance including sniffer dogs, rescue teams, and equipment for field hospitals, water purification and electricity generation.

"This is a strong sign of the severity of the disaster," Mr. Mueller said.

Reuters witnesses said public squares were packed with crying children and people left homeless, huddled in blankets to protect them from the cold. Corpses shrouded in blankets were hauled into vans.

"I have lost all my family. My parents, my grandmother and two sisters are under the rubble," said Maryam, 17, quoted by Reuters.

A grief-stricken old woman, disconsolate with grief, smeared her face with dirt, uttering: "My child, my child."


4,000 killed as quake razes Iranian city of Bam


At least 4,000 people were killed and 30,000 hurt when a massive earthquake today completely destroyed the historic centre of Iran's fort city of Bam, launching a major international relief effort.

Dozens of bodies littered the streets of the city, built almost entirely of mud brick and ill-equipped to withstand a big temblor, an AFP correspondent said.

"Unfortunately, 4,000 of our compatriots were killed in Bam and at least 30,000 others were injured," state television reported.

Bereaved residents wandered the streets pleading for the authorities to speed up rescue efforts.

"Seventeen of my relatives are buried under the ruins of my home, they've got to get a move on or all of them will die," said one, who gave his name only as Ali, as he attempted to shift the rubble with a spade.

Funerals had already been held for 500 of the dead in accordance with the Islamic requirement for a swift burial, state television reported.

At least another 400 people, most of whom are seriously injured, had been evacuated to hospitals across the region, it added.

Hundreds of people crowded into Tehran hospitals volunteering to give blood to help the thousands of injured.

A three-day period of mourning was declared in Bam's shocked Kerman province, as state media and authorities broadcast urgent appeals for blood donations, blankets, food and clothes to deal with the catastrophe.

Several countries offered immediate help after Tehran specifically asked for sniffer dogs and equipment to search for bodies amid the rubble of the ancient city and outlying areas.

Belgium, Germany, Spain, Greece, Russia and Turkey were among the first to respond.

The United Nations was dispatching two aid experts to Iran later in the day, said Madeleine Moulin, a spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Four more experts were due to fly out tomorrow, she added.

"One thing is sure: the historic quarter of Bam has been completely destroyed and many of our countrymen are underneath the ruins," said Kerman governor Mohamed Ali Karimi.

"The situation is very worrying," he told the official IRNA news agency.

Around two-thirds of homes in the southeastern city, home to some 200,000 people, and the surrounding villages were entirely or partially destroyed in the pre-dawn quake, the governor said.

The quake hit at 5:28 am local time, some 1,000 kilometres southeast of the capital, with a magnitude of 6.3 degrees on the Richter scale, IRNA quoted the Tehran University Geophysics Centre as saying.

Several aftershocks were recorded, the most violent occurring at 6:36 am local time, IRNA said.

The Strasbourg Observatory in France put the quake at 6.6 and said the temblor was the most powerful in the region since 1998.

The US Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center in Virginia measured it at 6.7, with the epicentre at a depth of 33 kilometres.

The historic centre of Bam had been renowned as one of the wonders of Iran's cultural heritage, boasting a 2,000-year-old citadel that was the largest mud-brick structure in the world.

Telephone and radio communications with the city, as well as the towns of Giroft and Kohnuj, were cut off following the quake.

The government has set up a crisis centre in Kerman, 200 kilometres north of Bam, dispatching five helicopters and two huge C-130 transport planes to the quake site, IRNA quoted deputy provincial governor Hossein Marachi as saying.

Authorities urged the population not to leave the disaster zone unless seeking urgent medical assistance, public radio reported.

Earthquakes are very frequent in Iran. Since 1991 nearly 1,000 of them have claimed some 17,600 lives and injured 53,000 people, according to official figures.

On August 27, a tremor of 5.7 jolted the Bam area, but caused no casualties.

The last major quake came in June, 2002, when a tremor of 6.3 hit northwestern Iran, killing 235 people and wounding more than 1,300.

In June 1990, nearly 40,000 were killed in Gilan and Zanjan provinces, in a massive tremor measuring 7.7.

Major quake in Iranian city, 10,000 killed

Tehran, Dec. 26: A powerful earthquake rocked the southeastern Iranian city of Bam, killing possibly 10,000 people. An Iranian legislator told the media after speaking to officials on the scene that 10,000 people may have died in the earthquake, describing the devastation as "beyond imagination".

Hasan Khoshrou said a survey undertaken by helicopter indicated that over 60 per cent of Bam's houses had been destroyed.

The earthquake of magnitude of 6.3 hit Bam, a city of 80,000 people, at 5:28 am Iranian time (0728 IST), state television reported. Its epicentre was outside Bam, which is about 1,000 km southeast of the capital Tehran.

"The quake hit the city when most of the people were in bed, raising fears that the death toll may go higher," said Khoshrou, who spoke to the media from Kerman province. He is one of the province's representatives in Parliament.

The Governor of Kerman province, Mohammad Ali Karimi, said: "The death toll is very high."

"Many people are buried under the rubble," Karimi told state television. Later he told state radio: "we do not have any precise information. What is certain is that the old structure of the city has been totally destroyed."

Hardly any buildings in Iran are built to withstand earthquakes, although the country sits on several major faultlines and temblors are frequent.

Iran's Red Crescent, the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross, said rescue and relief teams had been sent to Bam from numerous provinces, including Tehran.

"We are doing everything we can to rescue the injured and unearth the dead," the television quoted Karimi as saying.

Relief teams set up their headquarters in a public square in Bam because their offices in the Governor's building had been ruined, Karimi told state radio.

The citadel of Bam was destroyed, television reported. The oldest part of the fortress dates to about 2,000 years ago, but most was built in the 15th to 18th centuries. It attracts thousands of tourists a year.

Copyright © 2003, The Hindu. Republication

9:12am (UK)

Many Dead, Devastation 'Beyond Imagination' in Iran Quake

Many people were killed as they slept today when a powerful earthquake destroyed 60% of the homes in an Iranian city of 80,000.

“The death toll is very high,” said the governor of Kerman province, Mohammad Ali Karimi.

He gave no figure but added: “Many people are buried under the rubble” in Bam, 630 miles south-east of the capital, Tehran.

Local politician Hasan Khoshrou said people on the scene had told him the devastation was “beyond imagination.”

“No death toll is available, but it looks to be very, very high,” Khoshrou said.

Iranian television said the quake had a magnitude of 6.3 on the Richter scale and its epicentre was near Bam.

The station’s reporter said 60% of the houses in Bam had collapsed. Earlier, state TV reported that all houses made of bricks had collapsed in the region. Damage was reported in three towns around Bam.

The citadel of Bam was destroyed, TV reported. The fortress was built of unbaked bricks about 2,000 years ago and it attracts thousands of tourists a year.

“The historic quarter of the city has been completely destroyed and caused great human loss,” said Mehran Nourbakhsh, chief spokesman for Iran’s Red Crescent, the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross.

The authorities have sent numerous rescue workers with helicopters to the area, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

“We are doing everything we can to rescue the injured and unearth the dead,” said Governor Karimi.

“Authorities have demanded immediate blood donations to save the lives of those who have been admitted to hospital in the provincial capital of Kerman,” a state TV reporter announced.

She said phone links with Bam had been severed. Authorities were in contact with the Bam area through radio and satellite phone links. IRNA quoted the Red Crescent’s Nourbakhsh as saying water and electricity links to Bam had also been cut.

The quake struck at 5:28 a.m. (0158 GMT). There were several aftershocks.

In Iran, quakes of more than magnitude 5 usually kill people.

In Washington, the U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.7, which is enough to cause severe damage.

In a second earthquake, a tremor of magnitude 4 rocked the west Iranian town of Masjid Soleiman at 8:10 a.m. (0440 GMT), but no casualties were immediately reported, The town is 600 miles north-west of Bam.


Iran earthquake toll soars, as do aid offers

2003-12-27 23:17:11

TEHRAN/BEIJING, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Iranian government confirmed on Saturday that 20,000 people had been killed in Friday's earthquake in the southeastern city of Bam, while more countries have expressed condolences over the mishap and pledged aid to Iran.


The Iranian state TV Saturday quoted the Interior Ministry as reporting that 20,000 people had been confirmed killed and 30,000 injured in the devastating earthquake, which hit the city of Bam in Kerman Province early Friday.

But a government official noted that "rescue workers have foundmore bodies. The figure is now more than 20,000," and he put the number of injured at more than 50,000.

Earlier, Governor of Kerman Province Mohammad Ali Karimi said the disaster had already claimed 5,000 to 6,000 lives.

The strong earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.3 on the open-ended Richter scale, rocked the city of Bam at 5:28 local time (0158 GMT) early Friday, Tehran University's Geophysics Institute said.

Several aftershocks, including one up to 5.3 degrees on the Richter scale, further battered the city after the 6.3 quake.

Tehran Radio reported on Saturday that the government was making intensive efforts to rescue those still trapped under debris.

Rescue teams were swamped by the huge numbers of corpses being pulled out of the rubble while dozens of Iranian military aircraftwere mobilized to evacuate the injured.

Thousands of injured people were transferred to nearby hospitals aboard helicopters and more than 20,000 others are stillunder the rubble, the radio said.

Cars and trucks loaded with piles of bodies were also flowing into the cemetery of the quake-stricken town of Bora, southeast ofBam, witnesses said, adding that many corpses were abandoned in a corner of the cemetery, with grave diggers overwhelmed by the rush.

Iran's Red Crescent Society is pooling facilities nationwide toaid the quake victims, and it has already sent all its potential facilities to the quake-affected region.

Crisis management headquarters have been formed in Tehran and Kerman. Nearby provinces have been mobilized to urgently dispatch their relief aid to Bam.

Several consignments of tents, blankets, canned food, bread, clothing and medicine were being sent to the region.

Iran has appealed to international organizations and foreign governments for aid for the quake-affected region, including sniffer dogs and equipment to search for victims buried under the rubble.


Leaders of more countries around the world have expressed condolences over the devastating earthquake in Iran and offered different forms of aid to the quake-stricken country.

Australian leaders Saturday expressed sympathy to the victims and announced that 2 million Australian dollars (1.48 million US dollars) will be provided in aid to Iran.

All Australians were shocked by the death toll from the quake, which has killed more than 20,000 people, Prime Minister John Howard said on Saturday.

"Australia will closely monitor the situation in Iran and consider additional assistance based on the advice of international agencies on the ground," said Howard.

Earlier Saturday, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer announced the donation package in immediate relief.

Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong on Saturday extended condolences to Iranian President Seyed Mohammad Khatami over the catastrophic earthquake that has claimed at least 20,000 lives, Singapore's Foreign Ministry said.

"I am very dismayed and saddened by the news of the massive earthquake that struck the city of Bam, and the tremendous loss oflives that resulted," said Goh in a condolence letter to the Iranian president.

"On behalf of the people and government of Singapore, I extend to the families of the victims our deepest condolences, and wish those injured a speedy recovery from their trauma," said the primeminister.

Singapore's Foreign Ministry also announced on Saturday that the government will contribute 50,000 US dollars to initiate a public appeal by the Singapore Red Cross Society to help Iran.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Philippines President GloriaMacapagal-Arroyo expressed sympathy for the victims of the earthquake.

"We know the pain and anguish brought by these disasters and wepray for the souls of those who perished, and the quick recovery of the wounded," Arroyo said. he was referring to the landslides,flash-floods and ship sinking brought about by bad weather in the Philippines in the past two weeks which left more than 200 people dead or missing.

Arroyo said the Department of Foreign Affairs was coordinating with relief authorities to verify if any of the Filipinos working in Iran were among the victims of the earthquake, and to ensure they were provided with utmost assistance.

The Hungarian government has offered emergency aid of 5 millionForint (23,000 US dollars) and a rescue team of 12 people and foursniffer dogs.

The South African government also expressed its shock and sadness at the death of more than 20,000 people in the earthquake.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the government and people ofIran during this trying moment," President Thabo Mbeki said Saturday in his message of support to the Iranian government. Enditem

Misery mounts in earthquake city

Saturday 27 December 2003, 18:57 Makka Time, 15:57 GMT

An estimated 20,000 people have perished in the earthquake

The toll from the powerful earthquake that has devastated south-eastern Iran continued to rise as the international community mobilised a major relief operation on Saturday.

Iranian Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mussavi Lari said the final figure would be far higher than the initial government estimates of 20,000 dead and 30,000 injured.

"We project the scale of the catastrophe being even greater and the number of victims being much higher than has been announced," he told state radio.

Health Minister Massoud Pezeshkian claimed that in Bam, a city of 90,000 people "65 to 70 percent of the population have either been killed or injured."

The scale of the disaster overwhelmed emergency services, who were unable to access large areas of the earthquake zone.

Hopes for those buried under the rubble have all but vanished after temperatures plummeted below zero degrees Celsius overnight.

Historic city

The Iranian news agency (IRNA) is reporting that over 90 per cent of the historical city of Bam and large sections of Kerman province has been destroyed by the earthquake that struck early Friday morning and measured 6.3 on the Richter scale.

Bam's renowned mud brick architecture was unable to withstand the magnitude of the earthquake. A large part of the ancient citadel was destroyed, Kerman province governor Mohammad Ali Karimi said.

Dating back 2000 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.

Hospitals destroyed

Bereaved residents in the town wandered the streets pleading for the authorities to speed up rescue efforts. The city's two hospitals were destroyed in the earthquake, and while field hospitals were set up, they were overwhelmed by the volume of casualties.

The interior minister said the top "priority is to get help to the injured who are under the rubble. It is very cold in the region and we are very concerned" for them.

"Our second priority is to get the wounded to hospitals in the region," the minister said, adding that five military aircraft were shuttling between Bam and Kerman.

Twelve sniffer dogs were sent into Bam on Saturday morning to try to locate survivors under the rubble, but relief workers said they expected to find mainly corpses.

"We urgently need body bags," rescue coordinator Mohammad Jahanshahi told state news agency IRNA overnight.

"When daybreak comes, thousands of bodies will be pulled from the ruins and we have an immediate need for bags to transport the bodies."

International response

More than a dozen European countries, along with China, Japan, South Korea and the United States were mobilising aid, as well as the United Nations and the Red Cross.

Rescue workers put out a plea to the international community not to send aid workers, but instead supply drugs and equipment, such as ventilators and mobile X-ray machines.

Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani said "Iran urgently needed sniffer dogs and machines that would detect eventual survivors, medicines, blankets, tents and prefabricated units."

The injured wait to be transferred by plane to hospitals in Iran

The Iranian government announced that it would accept offers of assistance from all countries except Israel.

"Iran will accept humanitarian aid from all countries and international organisation except the Zionist regime", said a government spokesperson.

Heiner Gloor, of Swiss Rescue, said "I've never seen anything like it. It is a picture of total devastation. It is a huge area which has been hit. For the moment, the focus is on Bam, but there are outlying villages whichwe still haven't got to."

State television said no rescue teams had been able to go to the small towns and villages around Bam, which are home to a further 110,000 people, and inhabitants had been left to fend for themselves.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's office said the world body had granted immediate emergency aid of $90,000 for Iran. For its part, the the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is preparing an appeal for $8 million, a spokesman in Geneva said.

Previous earthquakes

Earthquakes are very frequent in Iran. Since 1991 nearly 1000 of them have claimed some 17,600 lives and injured 53,000 people, according to official figures.

On August 27, a tremor of 5.7 jolted the Bam area, but caused no casualties.

The last major quake came in June 2002, when a tremor of 6.3 hit north-western Iran, killing 235 people and injuring more than 1300.

        Iran earthquake toll: 43,000 dead
        From correspondents in Tehran
        04 February 2004

        THE earthquake which devastated the southeast Iranian city of Bam on December 26 caused 43,000 deaths, making it the deadliest in the world for more than 27 years, according to a new official toll Wednesday.

        The student news agency ISNA quoted Bam governor Ali Shafii for the toll, up from the previous figure of 41,000 given on January 16 by an aide to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who said it could go as high as 45,000.

        The Bam quake is still far behind that of Tangshan in China in July 1976 that killed 242,000 people according to official figures but many more in the view of Western experts.

        Shafii, speaking at the end of the 40-day mourning period said relief work was still very difficult in Bam, as the influx of people from ruined villages around had raised the city's populatiom from a pre-quake 90,000 to 213,000.

        The governor said that over the next 10 days he would carry out a census and oblige all those who were not Bam residents to leave.

        He called on the survivors who had not done so to move into the 17 tent villages erected in various parts of the city to facilitate the task of distributing aid.

        But Shafii said the health situation was satisfactory and there were no epidemics.