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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 December, 2003, 16:14 GMT
Earthquake 'tests' Iran - media

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in Bam, angry commentators in Iran's reformist press ask why the government has failed to adopt safety measures common in other earthquake zones.

Conservative papers, by contrast, focus on the inevitability of such disasters, with one seeing it as a test of "divine grace".

Television interviews with survivors vividly convey the sense of shock that the devastation of the city and mass loss of life has provoked.

Deaf ears

The English-language Iran News recalls that it has written "at least half a dozen editorials and analyses on the need to take urgent and decisive earthquake prevention measures".

But "unfortunately", it adds, "those running our country do not seem to be listening."

Warning that experts expect a quake on a similar scale in Tehran, the papers asks the government to "stop going through the motions".

"The status quo is unacceptable. Please do something of substance and do it now. We do not have a minute to waste."

Shoddy standards

The reformist Etemaad blames the high number of casualties on the city's mud-brick buildings.

And it points out that other earthquake-prone regions, where houses are constructed with modern materials, have much lower casualty figures.

Despite all the knowledge at our disposal we have not managed to overcome our susceptibility
Shargh

Shargh, another reformist paper, attributes the high casualty toll to "the fault of mankind, who pay no attention to the laws of nature".

"Mother nature is not heartless," it says, noting that solutions to natural disasters exist.

"Houses should be built with modern materials and not in flood plains or on quake faults, for example," it says.

"Despite all the knowledge at our disposal, and after many years of experience, we have not managed to overcome our susceptibility," it laments.

'Natural disaster'

Some conservative papers intimate that the catastrophe was inevitable.

Earthquakes may be "bitter events" but they are also "natural disasters", says the hardline newspaper Jomhuri-ye Eslami, which backs Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

While the earthquake is a "calamity" for the victims, it is also a test for the rest of Iran, the paper continues.

Iranian soldiers searching for survivors
Many are still under the debris

"Through our united endeavour we can demonstrate that we are worthy of divine grace," it adds. "We must pass this test with pride."

The conservative English-language Tehran Times carries condolences from Ayatollah Khamene'i to bereaved families, but many of its commentary sections are empty or ponder unrelated events.

And another conservative paper, Khorasan, notes that Friday's quake was just one of "several... in contemporary history" and goes on to provide a list of earthquakes and their casualty tolls since 1960.

'Nobody unscathed'

Most television broadcasts focus on rescue efforts and appeals for assistance, but one report on the Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1 also urges the government to exercise greater supervision of buildings and to "prevent inexperienced amateurs from building houses".

The sense of shock is vividly conveyed by interviews with survivors.

In a broadcast on Iranian TV news channel Khabar, a woman says she has lost uncles and aunts and her two children. Her husband, though alive, has a broken back and legs.

"Nobody went unscathed in my street," she says. "From each family only one or two people survived."

Asked what assistance she expects to receive, she begins crying:

"What can I say? What can I ask for? Only tell others and help the people who have nothing left. They have no water, no electricity, nothing at all. The whole place has turned into rubble. There is nothing left, nothing."

Another survivor urges viewers to provide any assistance possible:

"Please give whatever you can. I am an 80-year-old man, but I am even prepared to give my blood in the blood transfusion centres. I am even prepared to give all my blood," he says.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




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