The earthquake and tsunami in Japan revived memories of the terrible earthquake of Bam in 2003. Bam is a city with about 100,000 residents in southeastern Iran. I had visited the city and the beautiful historical citadel dating to centuries ago, once before the earthquake. Residential areas of the city were mostly built of brick and steel and the historical citadel was all mud and clay. The city was surrounded by large date palm plantations and dates from Bam are still the most famous brands in Iran.
The 6.6 M earthquake devastated more than 80 percent of the buildings and 26, 261 people died and hundreds were injured. For the several initial hours the relief systems of the city were disrupted and it took some time before the officials realized the depth of the tragedy . Those golden moments were the time relief workers had to save lives. The tragic images of the city I visited, in my capacity then as the Vice President, are still vivid in my mind. Avenue after avenue, street after street, homes were devastated and very few buildings remained. The government was very quick to provide relief and reconstruction projects were developed . I visited Bam once again 9 months later , the situation was much better and people were living in pre-constructed homes which were small, but provided the essential residential needs for a temporary period. Plans for reconstructing the ancient citadel were also underway at that time. The psychological and human rehabilitation would take much longer.
The government decided to set up a supreme national council for disaster response and to establish a national scheme including projects to strengthen existing building and enforce regulatory standards. Some of the construction projects were slowed down in the next government but the experience caused many officials to work for implementation of more stringent regulations in the construction sector.
Nowadays, when I visit districts of the greater Tehran Metropolitan area, as a Councilor and Head of the Environment Committee, I also visit the projects underway for education training and local earthquake response and relief groups which are underway. Tehran ,like many cities in Iran is located in an earthquake prone area and we all need to be prepared since many buildings in Tehran are not properly built and do not have the necessary strength to withstand an earthquake.