The seven members of a Hungarian Baptist medical team treating earthquake victims in Iran observed New Year’s Eve by having a cup of tea, singing the Hungarian national anthem and saying a prayer, according to a dispatch by Baptist World Aid.
There was neither the time nor the mood to celebrate, Hungarian Baptist Aid president Sandor Szenczy said in a report dated Saturday.
More than 200 people lined up for treatment at a tent “Baptist Hospital” in Bam, Iran, for injuries suffered in a Dec. 26 earthquake that killed 30,000 people and injured that many more. Some of the patients were seriously hurt, while others had pneumonia or colds brought on by enduring subfreezing temperatures without shelter, according to the report.
Lines grew longer each day as more survivors were found, Szenczy said. Many ignored smaller injuries at first, because they were happy just to be alive, but after a few days realized they needed help.
Two Hungarian Baptist Aid staff members, Dr. Ildiko Kovacs and nurse Monika Szilagyi, treated women and girls, while three volunteer doctors and a nurse treated men and boys. One, Iranian doctor Ali Ghessim Nejad Raeni, was particularly saddened. While he studied and works in Hungary, he was born and raised in a nearby city and served in the military in the ancient city of Bam, where between 70 percent and 80 percent of the buildings now lie in rubble.
Szenczy said the team is also being asked to help find homes for more than 1,500 children who lost their parents in the 6.6-magnitude quake, the worst earthquake to hit Iran in a decade.
The Hungarian workers also worried about looters. With most of the city’s administrators and a large number of police officers numbered among the victims, keeping order is a challenge. An armed guard was sent to protect the Hungarian Baptists, who used a reflector lamp to light up the area around their tents.
HBAid is acting as the lead agency in response to the disaster for Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance.
BWAid Director Paul Montacute said it is too early to tell how much has been raised for the organization’s “Iran Earthquake Appeal,” but it is certain that expenses for the medical team will be significantly more than the $5,000 originally pledged by BWAid.
American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship both pledged $5,000, Montacute said, and Australian Baptist World Aid has given $5,000. One British Baptist church alone raised $1,800 in a special offering, he said.
Montacute said he hopes more money can be raised to continue treating urgent medical needs and for help with the longer-term response.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.