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Iran: Better shelter needed for Bam quake survivors before weather warms up

BAM, 14 Jan 2004 (IRIN) - Maryam, a resident of Bam in her 40s, lost her husband and four of her 11 children in the devastating earthquake that hit the southeastern Iranian city on 26 December. She has been provided with a tent by the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) subsequently established not far from the place where her house used to stand.

She lives there with three of the children who survived, she sent her four other offspring to their grandfather outside the city to be looked after. Maryam's neighbour Mujgan was lucky enough to escape the terrible disaster that claimed the lives of an estimated 30,000 people and left some 100,000 people homeless and destitute.

Nobody died in her family that night as they were sleeping outside their house. However, they lost everything when their house was leveled and turned into rubble. She hurries to get to her temporary shelter with a pair of blankets given by the IRCS to keep her family warm at night when the weather is cold, dropping sometimes below zero.

The United Nations Coordination Centre in Bam has said that according to official figures, a total of 90,000 tents had been distributed among the affected population. "People have received adequate [numbers of] tents and blankets at this point of time," Abdul Haq Amiri, head of the UN team in Bam, told IRIN on Tuesday.

However, one of the concerns is the upcoming hot season, given Bam's desert location. "The heat is coming very soon and in one month the temperature will be about 40 degrees and it will be very hot here," the UN official said.

For that reason the government is said to be keen to have temporary shelter established for the vast number of homeless by the end of April. "But there is no specific or standard design for it as yet," Amiri added, noting that there was a number of possible types of semi-permanent shelter proposed to meet the huge needs. According to official estimates some 10,000 semi-permanent houses would be needed.

"As the weather changes shelter has to be improved," Amiri ascertained. The UN official stressed the need for proper accommodation that could protect people against scorching heat, noting that efforts to push that forward were underway. "It is absolutely impossible to live in summer under those tents that they [people of Bam] have received," he said.

Brunson McKinley, director general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told IRIN in Bam that the agency was in the southeastern Iranian city to assess semi-permanent housing needs. "The idea is basically to replace the tents in which many the people are living now with something that will withstand both the wind and the heat better and to do it pretty quickly," McKinley explained. IOM intends constructing after shock-resistant housing that will last around 12 months from local materials.

The above article comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004

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