News

World Vision aiding Iran

By ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff writer

World Vision, the Federal Way-based humanitarian agency, is sending relief workers and survival necessities to the city of Bam, Iran, which suffered a devastating earthquake last Friday.

“This is an overwhelming disaster and they’re going to need quite a bit of relief assistance,” World Vision spokeswoman Sheryl Watkins said.

World Vision estimates that 20,500 bodies have been buried and recovered so far, Watkins said. It’s expected 500 more bodies will be recovered, and the earthquake will leave about 100,000 people homeless.

Watkins said Monday the most pressing needs are shelter — temperatures are below freezing — and water purification and transportation.

Water purification tablets help prevent the spread of communicable disease, while buckets provide water access in an area where water lines are cut, she explained.

“Water purification tablets prevent the spread of illnesses that can kill people,” Watkins said. “After an earthquake of this magnitude, the water can kill you, so by purifying the water, we’re stopping the spread of disease.”

Federal Way resident and longtime photojournalist John Schenk is en route to Iran to videotape and photograph and document the quake’s aftermath.

The purpose of Schenk’s post-quake documentation is to educate and inform the public of the great need for help, Watkins said. His first photographs will be available Thursday.

“This has been a difficult disaster,” Watkins said, adding that in the media, “Mad Cow (disease) always trumps the earthquake.”

World Vision has collected about 1,500 “family survival kits,” each of which include eating and cooking utensils, a water container, water purification tablets and hygiene products. Each kit can aid a family of four to five people.

World Vision’s first airlift to Bam will include 15,000 water containers and 3,000 tarps for shelter. The shipment will also include 14,000 blankets — enough to help an estimated 4,670 families, Watkins said.

Food and medication will be shipped in after relief workers assess the damage and needs. Food usually consists of high-protein packets similar to military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat).

World Vision has so far collected $150,000 for earthquake response needs.

“For the citizens of the city and this region, it will take years if not decades” to return to a sense of normalcy, Watkins said.

The Red Cross Islamic Red Crescent Society is also coordinating search and rescues in addition to first-aid relief, said Mike Eagan, spokesman for the American Red Cross in Seattle.

The international Red Cross sent 50 teams of 500 people to Iran right away, Eagen said. It also sent 5,000 tents and 3,000 blankets.

The Red Cross can also try to help people outside the country contact family members in Iran, Eagan said.

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