Iran earthquake

Date: 26 December 2003
Magnitude: 6.6
Victims: 31,000
On Friday, 26 December 2003, at 5.26 (local time) an earthquake of magnitude 6.6 on the Richter Scale hits southeast Iran. The epicentre is located in the province of Kerman, specifically in the historical town of Bam. The effects of the earthquake are so devastating that the Iranian Government authorities send a request for international assistance.

The Department of Civil Protection, in agreement with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and following the activation of the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection, arranges for the immediate dispatch of an Italian team to Iran.

The team is made up of officials from the Department of Civil Protection, the Fire Service, two dog units from the National Alpine Troop Association of Veneto, three dog units from the emergency volunteer organisation Fo.P.I.V.O.L. (Forza di Pronto Impiego Volontariato Lazio), volunteers from ANPAS, from the “Misericordie” and Red Cross staff. All operations in progress on Iranian territory are coordinated and constantly monitored by the Operations Room of the Department of Civil Protection in Rome.

26 December 2003

On the evening of 26 December 2003, an Italian air force C130 from Pisa makes a stopover at Ciampino to pick up technical components and the Italian team, which has the task of carrying out the initial ‘search and rescue’ operations in Iran. The Italian team lands in the city of Bam at 15.32 local time after a ten-hour flight. 

Following an initial survey carried out by the Italian team in the area hit by the quake, and agreements with the local Authorities, an area is identified in the Baravat zone for the intervention and coordination of Italian relief operations. Bavarat, a town of 27,000 inhabitants and situated about 8 kilometres from the historical city of Bam, has been completely razed to the ground by the earthquake and still unreached by emergency services. 

The search and rescue operations, in close collaboration with the Iranian Naval forces, begin immediately. The dramatic situation for the population that has survived the quake makes it immediately clear that emergency medical station is needed, and it is set up the following morning, on Sunday 28 December, in the sports field in Baravat. 

Meanwhile, on the evening of Saturday 27, a second military air force C 130 lands in Bam. On board are personnel from the Fire Services, volunteers, as well as the necessary materials and equipment for rescue operations. 

28 - 29 December
In the town centre of Baravat, search operations continue, meanwhile the site for the Pisa Hospital Advanced Medical Station is prepared, due to arrive on subsequent flights. In Bam, a tent for the Italian contingent is put up as an office for the coordination of Community forces in the international area.

The voluntary civil protection dog units and the Fire Services work non-stop on search and rescue operations right throughout 29 December. Even the emergency medical station installed in Baravat continues to work incessantly, assisting the people who come to the medical teams for support and medical treatment. In the afternoon, an Airbus A 130 Cargo plane lands in Bam airport carrying the Advanced Medical Station from Pisa, as well as medicines, food supplies, tents for the setting up of a reception camp and the equipment necessary to continue with operations, while on the 29th the Iranian authorities announce the decision to suspend search and rescue operations. Seventy-two hours have passed since the quake and chance of finding survivors has drastically if not completely diminished. It is now necessary for all available human resources and materials to be fully exploited to assist the populations that have lost their homes. Therefore, the staff, Fire Service equipment and dog units prepare to return home, while the Pisa Emergency Surgery Team, composed of fourteen units of medical and paramedical staff and three tents, begins its work with the help of the Iranian military, on Tuesday 30 December.

The days to follow
The tents are used as a storehouse/changing room, and another as a waiting room and for administering medicines, while the third is used as a medicines and medical supplies store. That evening, work begins on putting up tents to accommodate the population, including the Department’s pneumatic tent, to be used as a mosque, with the intention of offering support to an extremely hard hit people and create the conditions for a return to normal everyday life and the normal socio-cultural activities of the Iranian people. On Wednesday 31 December, the strong wind that is affecting the area of the earthquake means all control and safety measures regarding the camp structures must be carried out. The remaining tents are put up and the lighting is installed to illuminate the tent city. Work continues through the 1st and 2nd January. In this phase, the activities of the Italian team are concentrated on the completion of the reception camp, restoring the electricity and water supplies, the collection of waste, and above all the training of Iranian doctors in emergency medical activities, who on 2 January take over the running of the Advanced Medical Station. 

Another air force C130 carrying tents, medical supplies, electricity generators, lampposts, etc., lands in Bam on Saturday 3 January. In the early afternoon, the Head of the Department of Civil Protection, Guido Bertolaso, the Vice Head of Department Vincenzo Spaziante, the delegate from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Riccardo Sessa and from the Ministry for Cultural Heritage Giuseppe Proietti, who will be collaborating in the reconstruction of the historical and artistic heritage of the city of Bam, arrive in the quake-hit area. The meeting between the Italian delegation and the Iranian authorities at the camp in Baravat formalises the handing over of the facilities set up by the Italian team.

Sunday 4 January 2004
The Italian mission ends after 10 days of activities with the return of all personnel who worked on Iranian territory to the military airport of Ciampino. Italian activities involved a total of 57 people who worked non-stop, five flights carrying materials and equipment, which came to a total of approximately 60 tons.


On 26 December 2003, the Iranian Authorities send the European Union a request for international assistance. As an international emergency occurring in a State outside of the European Union, and in compliance with the provisions of the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection, it is Italy, as the current President of the European Union, to coordinate European assistance on Iranian territory. 

The Civil Protection Department in liaison with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs arranges for the immediate dispatch of the Italian team. Mr. Agostino Miozzo of the Department of Civil Protection, head of the Italian mission, is appointed as Coordination Head for European intervention.

Below are the main stages of the European coordination activities:

27 December
The Italian delegation arrives at the airport of Bam in the late morning of 27 December. During the briefing carried out by the Iranian Government, the EU Coordination Head – Mr. Miozzo from the Italian Civil Protection - is informed of the fact that the international teams are beginning to set up a base camp in Bam, at the Military Garden (Seppah) where there is also a local authority Crisis Centre.
In the early afternoon, the Italian delegation meets the Governor of Kerman, the Iranian military Authorities and the German Consul. The delegation decides to station the European Union coordination centre inside the Military Garden. The local authorities ask Italy to operate in the town of Baravat (approximately 6 km from Bam) which has been seriously damaged by the quake and where rescue operations are urgently needed.

28 December
At the meeting at 9 am, OCHA, the Agency of the United Nations that handles the coordination of aid, divides the territory of Bam into ten intervention areas, assigning each one to the international Search and Rescue teams. Following contacts with the representatives from the member states present at the Military Garden in Bam, the Coordination Head calls the first European meeting the same afternoon in the coordination tent, which is attended by: Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Italy. After a “round table” meeting, the representatives of the Nations present exchange information regarding the intervention area, the number of personnel and the equipment used in the search and rescue operations.
It is an important opportunity to share information and discuss problems in order to optimise resources in support of team interventions and logistics.

29 December
The Coordination Head calls two meetings (at 9.30 and 17.00) involving Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France Germany, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia, the United Kingdom, Italy and representatives from ECHO (European Community Humanitarian Aid Office) who have arrived in Bam that afternoon. During the meetings, the function of EU coordination is reiterated and its specificity with regard to United Nations coordination. It is underlined to all participants that the coordination underway is produced by the willingness of the member states of the Union to make the Community Mechanism operative. The ECHO team asks if it may use the coordination point and the equipment installed to carry out their humanitarian aid activities.

31 December 
In the late afternoon, a delegation from the Iranian Ministry for Foreign Affairs visits the EU coordination tent, complimenting the work and the assistance offered by member states.

1 January 2004
Germany, through the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), in agreement with the EU coordination, provides inflatable tanks, guaranteeing the daily supply of treated water in the German base camp. Italy asks for a tank to put in the Italian camp in Baravat.

2 January 2004
At 14.00, in accordance with Brussels and the local authorities, the European Union coordination in Iran formally draws to a close. The Italian Civil Protection proposes a technical meeting to analyse and evaluate the general intervention of member states as a whole. The meeting takes place in Italy in February 2004.