Czechs send rescue workers, aid to earthquake-hit Bam

The Czech Republic was among the first countries to join the international rescue effort underway in the Iranian city of Bam, devastated by Friday's earthquake. Some 22,000 people are known to have died in the disaster, though the final death toll could be much higher. The Czech authorities have sent a 14-man rescue team with sniffer dogs to the area, as well as four tons of humanitarian aid. Rob Cameron has the story.

Bam,  photo: CTK
The team of 14 specially-trained rescue workers, equipped with sniffer dogs to find survivors and bodies buried under the rubble, arrived in Bam on Saturday. Pavel Hosek is the team's deputy commander:

"It's truly a scene of devastation here. All of the houses have collapsed, we're using sniffer dogs to find people buried under the rubble. We make contact with them and then hand them over to the local inhabitants to free them from the rubble."

However so far the Czech team have managed to free just one person from the ruins, and as the disaster enters its fourth day, hope is fading of finding survivors. Now the emphasis shifts to caring for the estimated 150,000 people made homeless by the earthquake, and dealing with the threat of disease.

Bam,  photo: CTK
The Czech government has so far earmarked just under 200,000 US dollars in emergency aid for Iran, and more could follow. On Tuesday a plane will leave Prague carrying tents, medicines and water treatment tablets, bringing back the team of rescue workers and their dogs.

Meanwhile three Czech humanitarian aid organisations are launching campaigns to raise money for victims of the disaster. The Czech branch of the International Red Cross has begun accepting donations for quake victims, while the People in Need Foundation and ADRA will begin collections on Tuesday. Representatives of the organisations say they the money will go towards electrical generators, heaters, water purifying equipment as well as food, medicine and clothing for those affected by the disaster.