Iran Earthquake Appeal (07/97)

Originally published


A violent earthquake in northwest Iran on 28 February killed almost 1,000 people, and left tens of thousands more homeless and destitute. The Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS), working in close co-ordination with the government, has mounted a massive relief operation, which must contend with logistical and communication difficulties caused by bitter winter weather in the disaster area. Because of the scale of destruction, the Society, which is responsible for the management of the emergency phase of the operation, is now seeking international assistance. It plans to help 60,000 homeless or destitute survivors over the next four months.

The Intended Operation

The IRCS completed the search and rescue phase of the relief operation 24 hours after the earthquake. The emergency shelter phase is also nearing completion. The Society expects to have a beneficiary caseload of 12,000 families (60,000 people) made up of earthquake survivors who have lost their homes and livelihoods or who are in acute need of assistance.

The next phase of the operation will concentrate on providing food, shelter, hygiene items and other relief supplies to the affected population for the next four months. (For details of goods to be distributed, see Budget Summary). Because all of the relief items except the generators and the water tankers are available on the local market donors are urged to make contributions in cash.

After this third phase, the IRCS will hand over rehabilitation work to the competent government authorities.

The Disaster

An earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale struck the districts of Ardebil and Meshkinshahr in the province of Ardebil in north-west Iran on Friday, 28 February at 13.01 hours GMT. More than 400 aftershocks have been felt since, with the strongest one, measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale, hitting the same area on 2 March. As of today, 965 people are known to have died and 2,600 have been injured. More than 100 villages have been damaged: 20 were completely destroyed, the remainder suffering 40% to 90 % damage. At least 1,000 people are receiving medical treatment in hospitals and clinics located in Namin, Sarab, and Sarein. Reports from the field indicate that some 12,000 families, or approximately 60,000 people, have been affected. The aftershocks have caused great fear among the population.

Cold, snowy weather conditions and the mountainous terrain have caused major logistical problems and have contributed to numerous deaths among survivors of the earthquake.

The Response so far

Government Action

The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran activated the Disaster Task Force of the Ministry of the Interior as soon as news of the earthquake became available. This task force is a permanent structure which co-ordinates other government departments such as the Ministries of Health, Rural Development, Power and Telecommunications in times of disaster.

Once the scale of the disaster became clear the government launched a national appeal. Today it has decided to launch an international appeal and has asked the IRCS to mobilise international assistance through the Federation.

The Ministry of the Interior is the overall co-ordinating body for this operation. As an auxiliary to the government, IRCS has been made responsible for the management of the relief operation until the emergency phase has been completed.

Red Cross/Red Crescent Action

On learning of the earthquake the IRCS immediately mobilised 2,000 relief workers from the Ardebil branch, neighbouring branches and its headquarters in Tehran. In addition, vehicles and other heavy equipment, ambulances, helicopters, and telecommunications equipment were put at the disposal of the Society's relief effort. The IRCS relief operation is also being supported by 46 army helicopters.

IRCS set up three relief and rescue task force units in Ardebil, Nir, and Sarab, plus three sub-units in Sarein, Khoshkehrode and Arjestan. Four days after the disaster the IRCS is still working around the clock. The search and rescue operation was completed in the first 24 hours and the emergency settlement of the survivors of the earthquake is expected to be completed today.

The IRCS now has more than 5,000 trained relief workers and local volunteers engaged in the relief operation. Besides the Society's branches in the affected area, the IRCS headquarters in Tehran and 15 other supporting branches have put all their available resources into the operation. Yesterday the Society established more than 370 collecting posts in some 240 branches to collect public donations. (A list of items already distributed by the Society is attached for information.)

Other Agencies Action

A United Nations Disaster Management Team arrived in the affected area on 2 March to undertake an assessment of needs. The Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA) is serving as a conduit for assistance channelled through the UN system. DHA is launching an appeal today and has mobilised USD 450,000 within the UN system. DHA and the Federation are co-ordinating their efforts.

Red Cross Objectives

The operation's objectives are to provide basic relief assistance to 12,000 families over the next four months.

Capacity of the National Society

The IRCS is well known and respected for its effectiveness as a national relief organisation and has dealt with many natural disasters, particularly earthquakes, of this magnitude and larger. The Society has a large pool of trained and experienced relief workers that can be mobilised at a moment's notice. IRCS also has a large stock of relief supplies both in its central warehouses in Tehran and in regional warehouses throughout the country, especially in earthquake prone areas such as Ardebil.

Present Capacity of the Federation The Federation maintains an office in the IRCS headquarters in Tehran and a non-resident Representative to the Society. At this point it is not expected that a Federation delegate will be assigned to the Society. The Director of the MENA department has been in Iran to assess the situation with the Society and the Federation Representative will be travelling to Iran within the next week on a short mission to assist in monitoring and reporting.

Budget summary

See Annex 1 for details.


This violent earthquake and the tremors that followed have left tens of thousands of people homeless and exposed to bitter winter weather. Although the IRCS has already mounted a major emergency relief operation, it urgently needs immediate support, particularly cash, as outlined in this appeal. We thank donors in advance for a rapid response.

Margareta Wahlström George Weber
Under-Secretary General,
Disaster Response & Operations Co-ordination
Secretary General

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