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Berkeley Persians Join To Aid Quake Victims

By John Geluardi Special to the Planet
Friday January 02, 2004

Members of Berkeley’s Persian community met this week to organize a Sunday evening dinner to raise cash and collect medical supplies for relief efforts in ancient city of Bam, Iran, where Friday’s 6.7 earthquake left at least 30,000 dead and thousands more injured and homeless.  

According to Red Cross estimates, the death toll could reach 50,000 by the time rescue teams reach all of the hundreds of small villages in the region. 

Members of Berkeley’s Persian Center are holding their Sunday fund-raiser at the Santa Fe Bistro, 2142 Center St., between 5 and 8 p.m. Guests are asked for a minimum donation of $100. 

“We are looking for new medicines such as antiseptics, antibiotics and pain relievers,” said Persian Center President Niloofar Nouri. “Everything that we collect will be sent to Iran immediately by Cyrus Travel which is volunteering transportation of medicines and doctors.” 

She said relief officials are discouraging donations of clothing and blankets because of the difficulty in shipping bulky supplies. “It is much more efficient to give money because so many of the things that are needed can be purchased in Iran,” Nouri said. 

Local Iranian businessman Soheyl Modarressi and Ahmad Behjati, proprietor of Santa Fe Bistro, are sponsoring Sunday’s fund-raiser. 

News of the earthquake had personal meaning for the 18 Berkeley residents who visited Bam during a humanitarian mission of the Wheelchair Foundation last April.  

While delivering donated wheelchairs to the regional capital of Kerman—about 150 miles north of Bam—the group, including former Berkeley Councilmember Polly Armstrong, Nouri, Modarressi and several city employees, took a side trip to tour the winding passageways and crumbling ramparts of the now-demolished 2,000-year-old citadel at Bam. 

“It was truly an amazing place,” said Armstrong. “It was one of the friendliest places I’ve ever visited. The people were so eager to visit with us.” 

Slides from their visit will be shown at the Santa Fe Bistro fund raising event. 

Modarressi said the Bam region “was already quite poor without the earthquake. It will take years for the city to recover.” 

The earthquake struck just before dawn while thousands of Bam residents were still sleeping or just rising, devastating the ancient city internationally known for its date trees and the 2,000-year-old citadel. According to recent  

estimates, at least 70 percent of the city’s buildings collapsed. 

The widespread devastation is largely due to the construction of the buildings, nearly all made of mud-brick and not seismically reinforced. 

Many of the deaths occurred when people were either crushed by falling debris or smothered by crumbling brick and mud. It is deep winter in Bam and others lost their lives when immediate rescue efforts were hampered by the extreme cold.  

The Persian Center, 2029 Durant St., is now collecting new medical supplies and looking for volunteers. For drop-off times for medical gear, call 848-0264. 

For information about donating money, blood or other supplies, see the website of the National Iranian American Council: