Iran: Caritas brings aid to earthquake survivors

 Caritas International members have pledged more than half a million pounds to help victims of the Iranian earthquake. The earthquake destroyed large areas of the city of Bam, left an estimated 30,000 people dead, and around 70,000 people homeless nearly three weeks ago. Now rescue workers are concentrating on helping the survivors rebuild their homes and their lives. CAFOD is a member of Caritas. CAFOD's Emergencies Officer, Alistair Dutton, said: "The initial rescue work is over and now we need to look at the longer term needs. Bam is a town roughly the size of Winchester the rehousing and rebuilding problems are enormous. And it's not just the town itself, villages all around the area have also been badly damaged and assessment teams are currently working out how to reach the people there." At the moment the homeless are living in tents and it is bitterly cold at night but in a few months the temperature is likely to rise dramatically and the tents will no longer provide adequate shelter. Sanitation is also a major problem and there is the fear of diseases breaking out if the system is not repaired before the hot weather begins. A Caritas emergency response team is working in Bam on food distribution and housing reconstruction and in two of the outlying villages Esfikan and Narteach. Romana Klaer, a member of the emergency response team, said: "All the people remaining in Bam are in mourning as they have lost so many relatives. Even now after two weeks no businesses have re-opened not even small street traders. There is no laughter of children yet. The city is dead, completely dead. The survivors really appreciate it if we just sit with them and listen to their story, they are really thankful that people from outside care. "In the outlying villages where houses did not collapse but got cracked the people still sleep in tents or in the open air. They are afraid to sleep inside, as every night and day there are several aftershocks, and these shocks continue to cause damage and people fear that their cracked houses might collapse", she added. In Eskifan Caritas are preparing to distribute food and hygiene kits to 600 families and have been discussing rebuilding plans with the residents. While in Narteach they are helping 250 families and have been working with the women in the village on getting the schools re-opened. "It is amazing how everyone is pulling together to try and get things back to normality but of course this will take years many of the victims will need psychological as well as social support", said Romana Klaer from Caritas Austria.

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