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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 January, 2004, 17:40 GMT
Bam tragedy: Aid worker's story
Aid worker Mehdi Eshraqi went to Bam in the immediate aftermath of last week's earthquake that destroyed the ancient Iranian city. He emailed BBCPersian.com with this account of the terrible impressions it made on him.

People are moving in the streets with fear.

We go to the aid workers' camp and then start working in groups of five. Each group heads for a different part of the town.

Our car is moving toward Arg-e Bam (the Bam citadel) when a man stops us.

This Iranian man (bottom) insisted he could hear his sons' voices from under the rubble
This man (bottom) said he could hear his sons' voices from under the rubble

He is crying and begging us to search for his son in the rubble. He says he can hear his sons' voices from under the rubble.

He himself has been rescued from the rubble and is injured.

We have to walk to his home since we cannot move our car any closer to his home because of the rubble.

Nothing has been left from the man's house but a pile of clay bricks.

On the half-destroyed walls of the house, I can see posters which show anatomical pictures of animals. The man says his son was the town's vet.

We have dug through the rubble for several hours.

We have lost hope, but the man's painful cries make us continue our effort. He has lost his hope, too.

The amount of rubble is so huge that we need to get help from a bulldozer, despite the possibility that his children's bodies will be torn to pieces by the bulldozer's blade.

When the "loader" digs the earth, the bodies of the man's sons are found.

He throws himself on the bodies and cries loudly. He has lost the result of all his life-time efforts in a few seconds.

When I see this scene I lose my control and my tears run over my dusty face.

People's stampede

We return to the camp after hours of searching without any results. It is dark now and the cold desert night is arriving... we have not found any tent and blankets for ourselves yet.

EMERGENCY AID
Survivors with bundles of goods in Bam
Aid agencies say disaster victims need at least:
Shelter: 3.5 square metres
Water: 7 litres/day
Food: 2,100 kilocalories/day

We go to the camps' store to get blankets and tents.

Crowds storm into a truck carrying heaters and blankets. Those who are weaker are stumbled upon.

Somebody throws himself into the storage room and then faints.

When he comes around he constantly talks about his children, who are shivering with cold and spent the previous night on the rubble left from their home.

He has lost everything but the only thing he wants now is a rug and some blankets.

We can't help crying again. We even forgot why we came to the storage room in the first place.

Horrible scenes

It's the third day.

The smell of dead bodies fills the air and makes it difficult to breathe. We can see dead bodies on every street and alley.

Aid workers in Bam
The smell made breathing very difficult

We have lost hope to find any body alive from under the dust.

The bulldozers which take away the rubble cut the bodies into pieces - it is a horrible scene.

When I am taking out the dead body of a mother with my own hands, I think: what would I do if this were my own mother? A strange fear fills my heart.

I have had hundred of hours of training to do this job, but now when I find myself in a real situation, I feel an empty hollow in myself.

I hope this will not happen to me, my family or anyone else...

Translated by BBCPersian.com




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