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Iran earthquake 2003


  • On 26 December 2003, a major earthquake struck the city of Bam in Iran, killing 26,000 people, injuring 30,000 and leaving 75,600 homeless.
  • Volunteers from the Iranian Red Crescent were some of the first people at the scene, helping the injured and looking for survivors.
  • At the height of the emergency operation, the Iranian Red Crescent worked alongside 135 Red Cross and Red Crescent delegates from more than 20 countries.
  • The British Red Cross supported the Iranian Red Crescent throughout the emergency operation. It sent three logistics experts and two relief flights to the city.
  • It continued to support the Iranian Red Crescent by providing search and rescue equipment to help it prepare for future disasters.

The International Red Cross response

A woman washing clothes surrounded by rubble© InfoThe Red Cross, led by the Iranian Red Crescent and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IRCS), was quick to respond to the earthquake.

Within minutes, those Iranian Red Crescent volunteers living in the city rushed to the scene to help the injured and look for survivors. At the same time, Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies from around the world prepared to send relief flights and staff to Bam.

During the emergency operation, the Red Cross and Red Crescent provided vital relief such as food, water and shelter to the population and helped trace lost family members. It also ran a field hospital, staffed by Red Cross and Red Crescent doctors and nurses. The hospital continued to be operational until the permanent hospital was completed in 2005.


The Iranian Red Crescent also ran four health centres in Bam and, with the help of the Danish and Icelandic Red Cross National Societies, counselled those traumatised by the earthquake through its psychosocial programme. This programme also offered classes in tailoring, sewing, calligraphy and painting and ran various sports activities. It helped thousands of people, most of them children.


Reconstruction of educational facilities was a big priority for the IRCS who funded the construction of five primary schools, three secondary schools and two high schools.

The British Red Cross response

Woman and child sitting on pile of rubble© InfoThe British Red Cross sent three logistics experts to Iran on 27 December 2003, the day after the earthquake struck. The three-person emergency response unit (ERU) helped co-ordinate all relief operations in Bam.


The British Red Cross also sent two relief flights to the city shortly after the disaster. The first flight, on 27 December 2003, carried vital relief supplies such as blankets, tents and water containers. Three days later, a second flight left for Bam carrying personal kit for the ERU, including a four-wheel-drive forklift, generators and warehouse tents.


After this initial phase, The British Red Cross continued to support the Red Crescent operation in Bam. It provided the Iranian Red Crescent with search and rescue equipment, ranging from highly sensitive microphones that can be lowered into a ruined building, to cutting tools and hydraulic equipment for breaking open blocks of concrete. This equipment was primarily for use in future disasters and was paid for by the Iran Earthquake Appeal, which was launched on the day of the earthquake. The appeal raised £2.3 million.


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