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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 January, 2004, 14:59 GMT
Bam's fragmented families

By Frances Harrison
BBC correspondent at a Tehran military hospital

More than 70 victims of the Bam earthquake are being cared for in Bagh-iyat-allah e Azam military hospital in Tehran, run by the Revolutionary Guards.

Mother and son among Bam quake survivors
Injured survivors are scattered across hospitals

After donning the compulsory black chador, or head-to-toe cloak, we are allowed to visit the women's ward.

Lying on a bed with injuries to her back, legs and hands is student Adiley Gharbeyzadeh, who is lucky to be alive.

"I was under the rubble for seven hours and I couldn't breathe through my nose, I could only breathe through my mouth," she says.

"And I didn't realise I was under the rubble for that long. I thought it was only an hour. Then my neighbours came and pulled me out of the building."

Adiley still does not know whether her mother and father and her sisters and brothers made it.

When she was pulled out of her collapsed home they were still under the rubble and she has not heard anything since.

A sister's care

Hamid is talking to his sister Hamideh. He reassures her that the pain will go and she will get better. She just says how much it hurts.

Hamideh's neck is in a brace. She has injuries to her skull and a huge bruise on one eye.

It is going to be a huge task to put the thousands of Bam survivors back in touch with each other - let alone help them rebuild their lives

In the next bed is three-year-old Hussein, a tiny little boy with an injured leg which might have to be amputated.

As the nurse explains, he is still suffering from shock and he has not spoken since he arrived in the hospital.

"When Hussein was brought here he was crying and he was very uneasy and frightened," the nurse says.

"His wounds were open and his veins were damaged. He was visited by an orthopaedic specialist, a neurologist, a kidney expert and also a general surgeon.

"First he was supposed to have his leg amputated but after x-rays they said they could wait and see if they could save some of the nerves in his leg."

Hussein was saved by his older sister, Taherey Hojetabadi, who happened to be in a neighbouring town when the earthquake struck.

She rushed back to find Hussein and their parents lying injured in the street. Only the front door of their house remained standing. They too are separated from the rest of their family.

Tracing relatives

The doctors in the Bagh-iyat-allah e Azam hospital have photographed Bam earthquake survivors in the hope that they can create a database to help divided families reunite.

The plan is to put the pictures on the internet and also to ask the state-run television channel to come and film the survivors.

From the first moment that the patients arrived, we did not know who they were so we decided to take photos and managed to create a form for each of them," one relief worker says.

"On each form we have recorded their immediate needs - such as underwear, shoes, trousers, women's overcoats and headscarves, even cash.

"And we even sent some people to ask what size suits and shoes they wear and have ordered clothes for them which will be delivered soon.

"Also we have asked for handbags to put everything in.

"Those who have been released can stay in a special shelter for a few days before they go home or to relatives elsewhere. We have prepared everything for them."

It is early days in the crisis and the emphasis has naturally been on giving the injured medical treatment and then feeding and clothing them.

But it is going to be a huge task to put the thousands of Bam survivors back in touch with each other - let alone help them rebuild their lives.

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