Earthquake Victims Still in Need

( [email protected] ) Jan 14, 2004 11:59 AM EST

BAM,Iran — Christian community leaders are calling on their members to help rebuild Bam, the city devastated by one of history’s deadliest earthquakes. The latest United Nations estimates show that it may take up to $1 billion to rebuild the broken city.

“This will be a long, long project -- five to seven years at least,” said Melik Khodaverdian, the liaison in Iran for the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), one of the agencies responding to the disaster.

The MECC, a member of the Action by Churches Together (ACT) International network, a Geneva-based consortium of church-related aid agencies, is working with the Iranian Red Crescent and the government there in responding to the earthquake.

The Dec. 26 earthquake left 30,000 dead in a city of 80,000. Bam, once Iran’s top tourist destination, now has now structure left intact; most were flattened to dust and rubble.

While Christian communities and humanitarian groups have sent millions of dollars in supplies, medicine, food and water, there is an imperative need to rebuild the houses.

“We need to start over but don’t have the resources,” said Shamsali Seieady, 42, who was a merchant, and who now sells cigarettes on the street to other stunned Bam residents.

The surviving residents of Bam now live in tents near their destroyed homes.

One of the Bam residents lamented, saying, “once we lived like kings and queens… look at what our lives have become.”