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Red Cross Sets Up Tent Camps for Iran Quake Survivors - 2004-01-31

The The Iranian Red Crescent, with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has set up the first 12 of a series of tent camps in and around the southern Iranian city of Bam to house survivors of the devastating earthquake which struck the historic city on December 26.

The Iranian government estimates the earthquake killed more than 41,000 people and made another 75,000 homeless. A Red Cross spokeswoman, Marie-Francoise Borel, says many of the survivors are camped outside their houses. She says they are reluctant to leave and are trying to salvage what they can from the rubble.

Ms. Borel says 1,400 families, or 6,500 people, are living in the tented camps. She says plans are under way to erect more camps to house thousands of other homeless people.

"The advantage of these camps is that you group people together and they will have access in these camps to proper sanitation systems, proper systems of health care, proper water systems, et cetera," she said. "It is much easier and much more effective to distribute all the assistance that you need to distribute in a camp setting than it is in scattered tents all over the city."

Ms. Borel says one of these camps, named Hamadan, will shelter 3,000 people injured in the earthquake. By grouping the injured together in one camp, she says, it will be easier to provide them with the medical care they need.

Although the needs remain great, she says that in some ways the situation in Bam is stabilizing and life is returning to the battered city.

"Babies are being born in the field hospitals," said Marie-Francoise Borel. "We have now passed the mark of 50 babies born since the earthquake. So, there is some sort of normalcy. In these camps, we are also setting up social areas, recreational areas and some schools. So, it is stabilized. We are trying to get back to some normalcy, but it will take a long time before the city is rebuilt, before people find jobs again, before they can get over the grief."

Ms. Borel notes that nearly half of Bam's population died during the earthquake. She says the Iranian Red Crescent with support from the federation is running a large psychological program in the city to help the residents deal with their trauma.