Quake Fallout: 6,000 Orphans, Empty Refugee Camps

Caritas Aiding Victims Near Devastated Town

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BAM, Iran, JAN. 11, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Caritas was given the task to manage aid for victims in four districts near Bam, the Iranian town devastated by an earthquake Dec. 26.



Iranian Catholics, numbering only 16,000 out of a total population of 68 million, have organized collections of aid from their communities for the quake survivors. Protestant and Orthodox communities in Iran also collected essential goods to help the victims.

In a report issued Thursday from Bam, members of Caritas' international network described the extent of the catastrophe from the 6.6-magnitude quake.

At least 6,000 children were orphaned by the temblor, the director of Bam's Department of Education told Caritas. The same sources estimate that an additional 9,000 children died, while some 1,200 teachers have disappeared.

Authorities in Bam estimate that 80% of the city was destroyed by the earthquake, in which about a third of the population of 90,000 disappeared.

Caritas personnel have seen survivors' refuse to leave the ruins of what was once their home, making it difficult for those affected to access aid.

Survivors refuse to be temporarily housed in settlements built by humanitarian organizations. In fact, in most camps, equipped to shelter several thousand people, there are no more than 20 or so families.

The Red Crescent is coordinating state and non-governmental humanitarian organizations working in the area. In the next few days the organizations will be entrusted with specific sectors of the city. Caritas Internationalis is being advised by Caritas-Iran.