KERMAN (Iran): Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) volunteer Nasir Khan Abdul Rahman spent the last two days of 2003 in earthquake-devastated Bam and said he had seen enough suffering there to last him a lifetime.
It was my worst personal experience. There was devastation everywhere.
Fathers were going around looking for their missing sons and daughters while the women were beating their chests, grieving over the deaths of their husbands and children.
Families were displaced, following rescue works, with children and parents being sent to different hospitals all over Iran for treatment.
Their reconciliation alone may prove to be a tough task, said the 46-year-old assistant director (Volunteer Aid Detachment) of the Selangor branch of the MRCS.
If not for my work as a MRCS volunteer, I would not go again to Bam, said Nasir at his hotel here as he was planning another trip to the ancient Silk Road city that was virtually destroyed on Dec 26.
The quake survivors were offered tents at specific places for, among others, convenience to receive aid and medical care.
They, however, prefer to erect their tents near their destroyed homes, hoping to retrieve the remains of their dead ones, said the 31-year veteran of the MRCS.
They are doing this to protect whatever remaining belongings they have to start all over again, he added.
If one is not moved to tears by the suffering of the 40,000-odd survivors of the quake, one is just not human at all.
I pray that such devastation will never again befall the people of Iran or any other country, he said.
The earthquake, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, struck just before dawn, killing entire families as they slept.
Iranian newspapers have put the death toll at about 30,000.
Eighty percent of the city, which is known as the Emerald of the Desert for its tall palm trees and historical sites, including the 2,000-year-old Arg-e Bam Citadel, was destroyed.
The authorities predicted that the quake survivors would likely be living in tents for at least a year while the city is being rebuilt.
Nasir, who has four children between the age of three and 15, said the suffering of the Iranian children was the most painful to see.
Nasir, who had been to the Philippines for flood relief work and had also helped during floods in Malaysia, urged all Malaysians to spare a thought for the plight of the people of Bam.
He said baby food, clothing and blankets were urgently needed for the quake survivors.
The natural disasters that Malaysians experience pale in comparison to what the people of Bam are undergoing, he said.