Woman wept on mercy mission

AN KESGRAVE woman today told of her tears as she stood by school ruins in the earthquake disaster zone of Bam.Henny Azmoodeh stood below a girl's school sign hanging crazily above a pile of rubble and wept.

AN KESGRAVE woman today told of her tears as she stood by school ruins in the earthquake disaster zone of Bam.

Henny Azmoodeh stood below a girl's school sign hanging crazily above a pile of rubble and wept.

It was the most heart-wrenching moment of her time in one of the world's most heart-wrenching disaster areas.

Hundred's of thousands of people died in an earthquake which levelled the historic Iranian city over Christmas.

And Mrs Azmoodeh gave up her family's holiday celebrations in Kesgrave to lend her linguistic skills to the desperate people of the city.

She said: "It was a mind-blowing experience. The whole place is a complete ruin. People are living in tents and many have already left to stay with families in other parts of Iran.

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"Some days I was emotionally down. But it is so difficult to put those feelings into words.

"I went through a whole range of emotions in my time there. From sadness to, in the end, a real admiration for the people there and a sense of hope for the future."

Mrs Azmoodeh, of Jewell View, was born in Iran, but had never visited the part of the country affected by the horrendous natural disaster.

It was a shock to the system. She flew from London to Iranian capital Tehran on New Year's Day where she was delayed by snow.

Eventually she was able to take a flight to Kerman, the capital of a province near Bam. It was there that the full sense of devastation hit home.

She said: "I got off the plane and there were injured people lying all over the terminal building. People were lying on stretchers being treated with drips.

"They were all waiting for flights back to Tehran so they could get proper hospital treatment.

"I felt the whole devastation of Bam when I saw all the people lying injured in Kerman."

Mrs Azmoodeh, who has lived in Ipswich for about 12 years, returned home on Friday to husband Manoochehr and her two children.

And she is filled with hope and admiration for the people she has left behind.

She said: "I just went with one aim - to see if I could make a difference.

"I think I did it. Obviously we couldn't solve all their problems, but we made a difference for the people there.

"Humanity if the only thing that matters. It doesn't what religion or race you are, I was very privileged to witness that.

"I talked to local people there and they were so grateful for the help they received from other countries, especially the presence of the Americans.

"You are so used to hearing death to America, but it wasn't like that at all. People were so grateful for how fast the response came from everybody, from all over the world.

"I hope it can be in some way like September 11, a shock to humanity which brought everybody closer together."

n Ipswich Iranian Cultural Society is raising money for the earthquake victims. Cheques made payable to the society can be sent to 75 Carr Street, Ipswich IP4 1HB.

Alternatively, cash can be paid straight into Barclays Bank

Account holding branch – Woodbridge Road

Name – Iranian Cultural Society

Account number – 10831891

Sort code – 20/44/51

Bam factfile

The earthquake that flattened Bam began shaking the city at 5.26am on December 26. It measured between 6.3 and 6.5 on the Richter Scale.

Current figures estimate up to 45,000 people were killed in the quake and aftershocks.

Both the city's hospitals were flattened and an estimated 1,200 teachers and 10,000 pupils died.

The city's famous 2,000-year-old mud-brick fort was flattened, along with about 70 per cent of the other buildings.

Earthquake factfile

Suffolk was shaken by Britain's biggest ever earthquake – 6.1 on the Richter Scale in 1931.

It is less than 15 years since Iran's last devastating disaster. About 50,000 were killed when a quake registering 7.7 hit on June 20, 1990.

An estimated 850,000 people were killed in the world's most devastating quake ever. The cities of Shaanxi and Kansu in China were all but wiped out on January 23, 1556.

Other huge earthquakes in China accounted for nearly 250,000 lives in 1976, 200,000 in 1927 and 180,000 in 1920.

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