I just returned from my second trip to Bam and wanted to give an update. The first was 3 years ago pre-earthquake where Arg-e Bam stood proud and untouched from disaster. This trip I returned to see the devastation of post earthquake.
Prior to my return, I was advised by many not to go due to several issues. Mainly I was told of the many diseases that may exist in the area due to the many corpses that were not found yet. I have to admit there was a certain smell in the air whether it was the corpses, the sewage system or simply the dirt and dust in the air I don't know. There were also lots of white flakes like rain or snow coming down. My “russari” and “roupoush” was covered with them.
First I drove around Bam just to see the general devastation and eventually walked and met some of the people. Five months after the quake I can report that still there is so much devastation that I cannot see results of what has been done for Bam and its people yet. I have been both in the San Francisco earthquake of 1989, and in the Los Angeles quake of 1995 still Bam was something else.
Granted the buildings and architectures of Bam is more fragile that in the states but this disaster is unbelievable. Practically nothing is standing in Bam. It has become a “city of the dead” -a city of “kharabeh”. The entire city has become flat. Two or three story homes now are one layer little hills. Despite the five months, I heard constant cries and moans of people everywhere. I was told that the orphaned children were moved to orphanages in Kerman.
There are many city blocks where you can see many homes that no one has even gotten to in order to dig bodies out. So yes most likely there are still many bodies under each of them. Considering that the quake took place early morning and people were still asleep in there beds. There just doesn't seem to be enough resources or manpower to still dig let alone rebuild Bam.
Many trees were literally cut in half. I saw coolers on top of trees, crumbled cars like crumbled paper, cars vertical standing near trees and walls as if they were hit by a hurricane or a bomb. There was an entrance steel door that stood straight with an entire home of bricks and cement pilled behind it. So not all of Bam was made of weak homes made of “kahgel”.
There are broken glasses all over the city, which makes it difficult for cars to drive around without punchering their tires and pedestrians tip toeing around them. I had hiking boots on and some of the areas I was walking in about 3 inches or so of water from broken pipes.
People from all different streets were washing themselves or cleaning themselves for their “voozoo" in the water gutters. I saw a bed covered in blood above rubbles. No street signs stood and yet the people knew which street was which. There are no stores around but a few vendors selling goods from their tents. There were rip faults throughout the streets. A brand new autobahn that was almost finished was now deserted.
Arg-e Bam for me was sad. Three years ago I spent three hours trekking through so many areas of it covering endless holes and maze. It was one of the most beautiful sights of history that I had seen. Now you cannot even walk through it. A temporary elevated wooden bridge has been built so it makes it safe to walk through to a certain designated point.
I picnicked at the tower, the highest peak of the Arg. The tower is no longer standing. It reminded me of a sand castle on a beach where a child had now stepped all over it. The little cafe where I had tea with its owners an old husband and wife no longer stood. What happened to them, who knows.
There were however rumors of finds from this natural excavations. They had found several skeletons in the walls of the Arg as well as the main headquarters of the Hakem — ruler — dating way back.. They had also found many old ceramic works amongst the rubbles. They may have been taken by the Cultural Heritage Organization or looted and sold somewhere.
When I approached people to talk, their main questions were what I was there to do for them. They certainly need help but how they will get it I am not sure. Complete families that have died are the lucky ones. Those that are alive have lost many of their loved ones and obviously are still very much in mourning. There is absolutely no balance in their lives or in their city.
Bam apparently was the center of smugglers from drugs and alcohol to woman selling and prostitution. The religious ones claim that god brought the quake to get rid of such people. One of the rumors was that right after the quake many had traveled to Bam to loot. Others have come claiming land and help.
Others claim that prior to the quake there were noises coming from the ground and believe that underground bomb testing happened and caused the quake. This latter I heard all over Iran not just Bam.
I myself was in a quake in northern Iran about two weeks ago. I witnessed people in panic as I sat relaxed in my seat. It was a small tremor by California standards and yet I saw people's faces and reactions that have experienced Bam and Rudbar.
I have heard of numerous rumors of millions and millions of dollars worth of donations and yet I saw nothing of the wealth. I heard rumors of great American tents with bathrooms and I never even saw one. As far as I saw there were basic Persian tents everywhere with the exception of one Chinese. Apparently the American ones were also sold at the bazaar like everything else.
The same seemed to have happened from the earthquake of Rudbar a few years back. Of course there were still international help visible in Bam. There were headquarters form the United Nations, the International Red Cross, Unesco, Unicef, Representatives from France, Italy and Germany.