12 January 2004
H.E. Mr. Mehdi Danesh Yazdi
Ambassador and Deputy permanent Representative
Of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
beforeThe first meeting of humanitarian Leisain Group
on Bam earthquake
New York- January 12, 2004
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Allow me to start by thanking you for convening this timely meeting on the tragedy that shook not only my country but also the whole world on 26th December 2003. My words cannot adequately reflect the depth and devastating effects of this tragedy that has brought profound sorrow and pain to my country and people. Our grief has also been shared by the entire human societies throughout the world. The response of the international community to the disastrous earthquake in Bam has been tremendously humane, generous and sympathetic. I would therefore like to express the deep appreciation and gratitude of the government and people of Iran to all governments, peoples, various bodies of the UN system, international humanitarian associations, NGOs and civil societies for the sympathy, assistance and solidarity that they have extended to our people particularly the victims of the Bam devastating earthquake in the course of the past two weeks. Indeed, this humane gesture cannot and should not be measured by any criteria of material nature.
Our meeting today, convened under the able chairmanship of the distinguished Belgian Ambassador and at the request of OCHA, is a timely and appropriate initiative to address the post-quake situation in Bam. In fact, we would have not expected the first meeting of the Humanitarian Liaison Working Group in 2004 to be convened on such a catastrophic natural disaster. However, the gravity of the situation has urged us to gather here in order to help the amelioration of the situation of thousands of the survivors on the ground, and to be a real prelude for transition from relief assistance to development of the Bam city as well as other stricken areas.
Mr. Egeland, the Under-Secretary General, has already visited the quake stricken areas in Bam. No doubt his analysis of the current situation and description of the whole episode would be more inclusive and comprehensive than what I endeavor to illustrate. I would be amiss if I do not praise him and his staff for their tireless efforts on coordination of humanitarian assistance both in the field, in Geneva and here in the Headquarter particularly during the holidays of Christmas and New Year. My thanks also go to the personnel of other UN bodies and international humanitarian agencies as well as relief workers dispatched from all over the world to the area.
During the last two decades, Iran as a disaster prone country has suffered from a significant number of natural disasters including four major earthquakes, devastating floods and the worst drought in the last thirty years. The Bam earthquake is the 3rd earthquake in Kerman province in the past 25 years.
On Friday 26th December 2003 at 5:27 a.m. an earthquake with the magnitude of 6.3 on the Richter scale hit the city of Bam. Approximately 35,000 people perished and 22,000 were injured. The injured survivors were mostly airlifted to hospitals in other cities throughout the country, and received inpatient and outpatient care. In total, the earthquake destroyed more than 20,000 homes of the 100,000 inhabitants. The 2,500 year-old historic citadel of Bam (Arg-e-Bam), an internationally known heritage site made of mud bricks, was extensively damaged. The economic prospects of the Bam region and the livelihoods of its people have been dealt with a severe blow for years to come.
As a result of the earthquake, the lifelines and all public services were totally broken down in the first 24-48 hours. There was no water and electricity in the town; however, safe drinking water was provided with no delay in the form of bottled water. My government acted swiftly and organized the immediate relief operations, but due to enormity of the disaster, it became clear that the government cannot respond to this tragic catastrophe single-handedly and consequently appealed for immediate assistance from the international community. The reaction and solidarity of the international community, as I have already acknowledged, were equally swift and generous.
The very acute phase of the response has ended. However, given the magnitude of the disaster, rebuilding of Bam over the next two years requires skilled human and huge amounts of resources, and innovative institutional arrangements. At present, initial estimates indicate that the longer term recovery could cost over 1 billion USD. Although most of these resources will have to be raised by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the international community can provide critical support in some of the most strategic areas within a multi-year reconstruction program. Perhaps, few countries may be able to handle the recovery process of such magnitude solely through its own resources and capabilities. In this context, I should not fail to mention that the entire Iranian society, including our nationals living outside the country, have passionately participated in the national mobilization programs for fund raising and other forms of relief initiatives. The role of the Iranian civil society in helping the government to respond effectively to this tragedy has been significant in terms of human and material supports. Local communities as well as famous artists and athletes have also been actively participating in fund raising for the survivors of the earthquake. In brief, the response by the non-governmental sectors has been enormous and beyond expectations.
The urgent needs for all sectors have already been incorporated in the overall flash appeal launched by OCHA on 8th January 2004. What is important now is the quick and efficient response to the needs for the medium physical reconstruction and long-term rehabilitation of all sectors. This opportunity should be used to further forge and expand collaboration between the government of Iran and the UN on a joint cooperation strategy for overall reconstruction of the city. It goes without saying that this can be achieved by ensuring and enhancing operational capacity of OCHA, the UN funds and programs, the relevant specialized agencies and the stakeholders in the field. To this end, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran will not hesitate to fulfill its share and responsibility.
We witnessed an extremely efficient cooperation and coordination for the provision of emergency relief to the affected people in the initial phases of disaster by the different bodies of the UN system. Our earnest expectation is that such a pattern of cooperation will continue in the medium and long-term recovery of livelihoods of the people through quick rebuilding of the very foundations of the city of Bam.
I thank you Mr. President