By: Mir M.Hosseini
A major earthquake jolted Gilan province north of Iran at 12:30 AM. Measured at 7.3 on the Richter Scale by Tehran University, combined with more than 100 aftershocks, it caused huge disaster and left thousands of people buried in rubbles. More than 30,000 died and about 100,000 were injured while 500,000 were left homeless. The quake caused damage in neighboring Zanjan province also. Most damage was seen near the cities of Roodbar and Manjil where hundreds of villages were wiped out. Survivors struggled with bare hands to reach thousands still buried beneath mud and rubble because landslide damaged the roads, cut the phone and electricity lines and made it difficult for rescue workers to reach some areas in time.
After the Red Cross and Red Crescent asked for tents, blankets, food and medical supplies, international aid effort moved into top gear, expressions of sympathy and offers of help poured into Iran. 5 days later, after giving up hopes of finding anyone else buried alive in the ruins, aerial spraying of disinfectants to prevent epidemics in the ravaged area started.
Iranian officials soon made it clear that they did not need doctors, rescue workers, blood supplies, sniffer dogs or used clothing but added that disaster aid would be accepted from all nations except Israel and South Africa as states promoting apartheid and racism. Iran accepted comfort from its enemies, including the United States.
In December 1988, an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck Armenia, killing about 25,000 people. The epicenter of that quake was a few hundred kilometers northwest of the epicenter of Gilan earthquake where there was no known fault line nearby; somehow surprising geologists and a common belief among locals that Gilan was safe from earthquakes because of numerous water wells.
One of the unusual sidelines of the earthquake aftermath was the alleged distribution of blood infected by HIV by a French firm.
Known worst earthquakes of all time are: in 1556 in Shensi, China with a death toll of 830,000, and a quake in Calcutta, India in 1737 which took 300,000 lives. In Dec, 2003, another disastrous earthquake destroyed the ancient Iranian city of Bam.