Crisis Relief Society (Singapore) plans to distribute fruits to earthquake victims in Bam for 6 months

Originally published
1. Dr. Michael Lim, the president of Crisis Relief Society (Singapore) came up to Iran to do a survey trip from 12-22 Jan 2004. The reason we came up was so as to come and bring support and help to the victims of the earthquake in Bam, Iran. The earthquake occurred on 26 December at about 0530H in the morning. In many parts of the world, including Singapore, we were unaware and merrily celebrating.
2. As we interviewed the people in Bam, almost everyone has lost at least one close relative. One man lost 58 extended family members in the earthquake. He is speechless.

3. A mother squatting down and washing her clothes at the public tap near her collapsed home told us that she managed to carry one baby out of the house. Unfortunately, she has lost two other children. As a father of a 4 months old baby, my heart could not stop sobbing for her loss.

4. We met another family trying to salvage things from their home. Father, mother and little daughter managed to run out of the building. However, grandmother had one leg caught in the collapsed debris. As hard as they tried to rush to remove the debris and call for help, she passed away one hour after arriving at the hospital. The little girl who was the last to run out of the collapsing building is still in grief. She cries every night and has not been sleeping well since the earthquake. She looks like about six years old.

5. As our car drove down the street, I saw a father carrying his little bundle. My baby would be about that size in such a bundle. The father looked dazed. Each night is about 5 degrees Celcius. How is the baby going to cope with the cold? Fortunately, some heaters have just arrived yesterday. Even ten minutes down the street, I still wished that we had stopped the car in time for me to give him some comfort and support. As I kept looking back, he was no where in sight among the throng of people, some wandering aimlessly around, others pressing on for the remaining children. As we hand out sweets and a colorings set to their children, you could see tears in their eyes.

6. Further down the road, a man came to us and told us that he has lost everything. Interestingly, another little girl of six was waving and asking people to come visit her tent and she stretched out her hand to ask for some money. We see another girl holding on to a new toy wrapped in plastic. We are glad that some people have come to Iran to help.

7. Working in the harsh environment here to bring relief is tough. We had to use a pit toilet in one of the camps. Fortunately, there is a cloth surrounding the pit to give a sense of decency. There were no showering facilities then. We are glad to say that containers fitted with toilets and showers are arriving. We were in a tent for four people and the zipper of the tent had spoilt. At times, I woke up in the morning due to the cold wind (3 degrees Celcius, like sleeping in the fridge) blowing into the tent. We were glad to be able to put up two eight men tents before we left the camp. Subsequent teams coming to help would be warmer in the nights.

8. We are embarking on a few projects here in Bam after this initial recce. Firstly, we have started on fruit distribution. There is insufficient vitamin in the diet of most earthquake victims in Bam at the moment. We therefore initiated the fruit distribution together with Operation Blessing, Operation Mercy, Alabama Disaster Relief and Global Operations. Instead of the usual 900 people coming to the dinner distribution point at the Alabama Disaster Relief, when we distributed fruits, 1400 people turned up. It must have been quite a while since some of them have eaten any fruits. What a joy on their faces. And some mothers queued for more than 30 minutes for those three oranges for her remaining family of three. Indeed, some must have missed having that one orange once in a while. We were glad that we were instrumental in bringing that smile to each of their faces. And the much needed Vitamin C to build up their body immunity for this cold winter and coming rainy season. We are encouraged to make fruit distribution one of our main projects here.

9. The programs we hope to be involved in Bam are

  • i. Fruit distribution- which we have already started with our partners, Operation Mercy and Global Operations.
  • ii. Program to help counter post-traumatic stress disorder in children.
  • iii. Recreation Centre set-up with English and Computer Club.
  • iv. Helping with the medical clinic
10. It would take at least 6 to 12 months before life could stabilize in Bam. Life could never be the same again for Bam that used to have an ancient city of a few thousand years. Many in Iran grieve for the loss of 45000 lives and the destruction of an ancient city, a part of their heritage. As for the little girl who saw her grandmother screaming in agony with the debris upon her leg, life would never be the same again. When would she be able to stop sobbing in the night? The earthquake happened in the wee hours of 26 December 2003. It has been almost 4 weeks and she cannot sleep peacefully at night. What little we can do for the earthquake victims in Bam, let us give it with our love. To bring relief to Bam is tough but it is essential, especially for the little lives coping with the cold winter nights and the haunting memories. The people in Iran are trying their best to help. The UN and the Red Crescent in Iran are doing a commendable job in bringing relief to the people of the Bam earthquake and they are very supportive of NGOs like us. Your partnership with them is invaluable. Come and extend your hand of friendship and help.

11. We thank you for standing together with us as we come to serve the people in Bam. As we go about giving and receiving oranges this Chinese New Year we hope that you will consider sponsoring towards two oranges a week for a family of 10 Bam earthquake victims for six months. That will cost US$60 (S$100). And it will go a long way to Bam.

Dr Michael Lim
Crisis Relief Society (Singapore)
Tel: +65-98550782