ZARAND, Iran, 23 February 2005 - A powerful earthquake - measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale - struck the south-eastern Iranian town of Zarand early Tuesday morning. The death toll has already passed 500, and is expected to rise. Hundreds of survivors were forced to spend the ensuing night outdoors, exposed to freezing temperatures.
UNICEF’s Emergency Coordinator, Steven Lauwerier, has been at the epicentre since the very beginning of the disaster. “I visited 10 of the most affected villages. Out of the 40 villages that have been affected, ninety per cent of the buildings in three villages are collapsed,” reports Mr. Lauwerier.
|© UNICEF Iran/2005|
|At least thirteen villages around Zarand, in south-eastern Iran, were hit by the quake.|
Among the hardest-hit villages is Hotkan Village, which lies in the middle of a mountain range. Mr. Lauwerier witnessed firsthand the ongoing rescue operations. “There are hundreds of volunteers delivering food, water, tents, and stoves to keep people warm. People were carried out of the rubble, most of them dead. It was freezing cold, and there was rain and snow. It was really terrible. However, amongst all this despair, two girls were found alive under the rubble.”
The earthquake has revived painful memories of the devastating quake in Bam in 2003. That tragedy killed more than 30,000 people and left 80,000 homeless. “The part of the villages that were hit hardest had the exact same type of buildings as were in Bam – mud brick buildings. That’s very scary, because a lot places in Iran have these mud brick buildings, which don’t withstand earthquakes among these scales,” continued Mr. Lauwerier.
|© UNICEF Iran/2005|
|Villages located closest to the mountains were among the hardest hit. Some were completely wiped out.|
“Iran lies in as difficult a geographic position as any place on the planet,” explained Julianna Lindsey at UNICEF Office of Emergency Programmes. “That means we have the obligation to help the government be prepared for these kinds of situations. That’s why we keep stockpiling in the country, so that we can move in supplies to the affected areas very quickly.” said Ms. Lindsey.
UNICEF’s experience in Bam has left them better prepared to handle this week’s quake. From a warehouse in Bam, UNICEF has already dispatched a truck to Zarand containing 400 emergency latrines and 400 plastic tarpaulins. A second truck containing 14 large tents and 120 latrine slabs will leave for the area tomorrow. As per government request, UNICEF will also set up psychosocial counselling, instituting play therapy for children in order to help them overcome shock and trauma.
23 February 2005:
UNICEF Programme Officer in the Office of Emergency Programmes Julianna Lindsey, talks about the earthquake that struck Zarand, Iran.