Iran 2003


185 km (115 miles) SE of Kerman, Iran

Magnitude & Depth

6.6M & 10.0 kilometers

Team Deployment

15 member rescue team

26th December 2003

John S Anderson

IRC and Swiss Dog Team. Rab Barrie, Sheena McCabe

IRC and Korean Team. Ian McPhail, John S Anderson

Travelling to BAM

Travelling to BAM
On the 26th December 2003 the city of BAM was hit by an earthquake measuring 6.3 – 6.7 on the Richter Scale. IRC were asked to mobilise a team as part of the UK response being flown to Iran by the Department For International Development. The team would take with them approximately 1.3 tonne of equipment.
By approximately 1200hrs all movement had started. The first team members arrived at Stansted Airport approximately 1520hrs. By approximately 1800hrs most of the team have arrived. We are informed that the total team will be 66 and 4 dogs.
At this point we were aware that the provisional departure time would be 2000hrs and that this was becoming a very definite time. Most are on board with the kit by 2100hrs. The press reports as we boarded were indicating 15,000 dead and 70% of the city destroyed. The indications were that both the hospitals in the area were also destroyed. A single hotel has also been included in the major buildings involved, but we can get no confirmation of these facts. Bam was an ancient city with mostly traditional construction. Some concrete buildings did exist but few were believed to be over 2 stories in height.

27th December 2003
The team changed to local time which was plus 3.5 hours. The plane touched down in Kerman at 0718hrs. It required approx 27 minutes to taxi and park, with the team being disembarked quite quickly. On entering the terminal we were faced with possibly hundreds of seriously injured lying on blankets and mattresses. (We later witnessed them being loaded onto Iran Air planes which had been stripped of seating and departing for points unknown.) We started into immigration, passport control and customs as they left the building. All cleared with only minor hold ups and we were again air side at the military section to wait for flights to Bam. 0930hrs and we were informed that this should take around 1 hour. As the other information and arrangements for entry had been well organised we hoped that this time would be correct. We managed to get Ray Gray and Kevin Holyoake on a plane with THW and Rapid UK. At least 22 of the British team had made the move with instructions to hold at the airfield or move to the proposed base camp in a military training camp. By 1415hrs with no sign of a plane, the team boarded road transport for Bam. This decision would prove worthwhile later as we were able to keep this transport throughout the mission deployment. It would also start a very long and frustrating journey. By 1810hrs the transport was approx 6 kilometres from the city but had been stopped by pure volume of traffic. The 2 lane road was now up to 18 lanes wide. As it stopped the local population simply opened another lane in the desert. This only added to the congestion as at some point they all had to rejoin the road.

28th December 2003
Finally arrive at the camp in Bam at approximately 0327hrs. We decide to set up a temporary base camp, contact the other teams on site and look at deployment as soon as possible.

By 0530hrs all the vehicles have arrived in camp and Ray and Kevin have also joined us. They bring valuable information but they also indicate that the type of damage is most likely to mean few, if any, survivors – complete collapse with no voids. The evening temperatures have dropped to around minus 2°C. The day time temperature should however rise to around 80°C.

Part of a housing estate in BAM. Note the small size of the rubble. There is little chance of survival if buried as there are few large voids capable of supporting life.

An OSOCC (On Site Office for Communication and Coordination) has been established by the United Nations and the city has been zoned. The UK teams are given zone 5. The team is finally deployed and out on site. We are informed that the Czech Republic team have also been deployed to this zone and should arrive soon. Rumours abound at the base camp of possible live contacts, but as teams report back, NO LIVE finds reported. By 1625hrs we are satisfied that zone 5 has been searched and the team return to base.

The team in BAM. Ian McPhail, Jim McElwee, Sheena McCabe.


IRC request permission to return to zone 5 after dark to research some areas and ensure contacts are not missed in the cool quiet evening and night. DFID and the UN agree to this request.

A team of 8 members return to zone 5 along with a local interpreter. They have been fully briefed by the UN on the security risks of this type of night work but are happy with the communications and back up available.

When they return all report that at no time did they feel threatened by the local people and in fact they had found quite the opposite to be the case. Unfortunately even in the cool and quiet of the evening no signs of life could be found.




29th December 2003

Houses in BAM

Houses in BAM
At the early briefing the UN allocated the UK teams Zone 4. At this time they believed it had not been searched by any team. A Greek team have also been sent to zone 4. IRC mobilise a team in conjunction with a Dutch dog section. After they leave and after the scheduled meeting, information is received at the OSOCC that this zone has been searched with NO finds of live casualties. At this time even the dead are being removed. The IRC team were recalled and a new tasking was asked for. They were asked to travel NORTH.

It was hoped that they would be able to identify the outer boundary of the incident in this direction. The Dutch dogs would accompany IRC to ensure full rescue capability if required. It was however understood that needs assessment would probably be the work for this day.

Some “maps” were acquired. They were in a language which no one could read and according to the locals, had the roads in the wrong place. Still armed with GPS, a compass and some locals they headed NORTH. After approx 2 hours the team return. They have carried out assessments in 2 towns and reported that all damage has ceased within 17 kilometres.

The UN take this information and feed it into the system which will create an overview of the disaster.

By evening no further tasks have been passed to the UK teams and arrangements are being made to pull back to Kerman. The team departs by bus at approximately 23.20hrs. A quiet calm is noted during the trip.

30th December 2003
We arrive at the airport by 0330hrs. No one is sure what is happening and all we can do is sit and wait for word on the flight from the UK. It arrives and we start out to the plane by 1250hrs. 1410hrs and we are ready and rolling for the short hop to Bahrain to refuel. We return to UK time, 0940hrs. We finally land in Manchester by 2038hrs. The kit finally clears handling and customs and all that remains is the trip home. 2 members fly on to Stansted, 5 will drive home from Manchester taking most of the kit back to Easingwold but no flights were available for the 7 Scottish members who stayed overnight.

31st December 2003

Flight to Edinburgh and then home by road. Final dispersement of the team is completed by 1447hrs.

As a conclusion to this report it must be noted that the International Rescue Corps wish to place on record their thanks to DFID who made this rapid response possible.


The IRC Team. From top left, Ray Gray, Glen Lloyd, Rab Barrie, Willie McMartin, Anne Marie Macdonald, Kevin Holyoake, Alistair Brown and Sheena McCabe. From bottom left, Giles Eagan, Jim McElwee, Derek Jolly, John Brown, Ian McPhail, John S Anderson, Brian Davison.


Willie McMartin (Scotland) Team Leader
Brian Davison (Leics) Team Coordinator
Glen Lloyd (Leics) Team Medic
Rab Barrie (Scotland) Section Leader
Ray Gray (Selby) Section Leader
Anne-Marie McDonald (Scotland) Section Leader
John Anderson (Scotland)
Jim McElwie (Birmingham)
Kevin Holyoake (Berkhampstead)
Ian McPhail (Liverpool)
Sheena McCabe (Thirsk, N. Yorks)
John Brown (Scotland)
Alasdair Brown (Scotland)
Derek Jolly (Scotland)
Giles Eagin (Leeds)


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