Iran Focus: Tehran, Dec. 19 - The head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Ahmad-Ali Noorbala, has been implicated in the smuggling and illegal sale of relief aid goods which were destined survivors of the earthquake-hit city of Bam (southeastern Iran). Iran Focus

Tehran, Dec. 19 - The head of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Ahmad-Ali Noorbala, has been implicated in the smuggling and illegal sale of relief aid goods which were destined survivors of the earthquake-hit city of Bam (southeastern Iran).

Officials within the Iranian government have on a number of occasions announced different figures for the death toll in Bam which struck in the early hours of the day, nearly one year ago on Dec. 26, with some officials putting the figure at nearly 70,000.

On the orders of the head of the Red Crescent, hundreds of trucks took relief supplies that had been sent to the disaster area in Bam to warehouses near Tehran. The items were subsequently sold as second-hand products in Behesht Zahra district, south of Tehran.

Public opinion in Iran has been strongly critical of the way the authorities handled the response to the quake, accusing them of blocking foreign aid and attempting to conceal the true dimensions of the disaster. In the days following the quake, many foreign rescue workers complained of restricted access to the Bam site.

Nearly a year on after the disaster, order has yet to be restored with the majority of survivors still living in tents and temporary houses.

Lanterns, torches, blankets, tents, pots and pans, and first aid kits are among the items taken from Bam which are being sold in Tehran’s markets. Tehran residents have said that they have come across merchants in the marketplace selling rice from bags which have been marked as food aid for Bam’s survivors.

In a recent interview with a state-run daily Noorbala argued that the organisation had ‘invested 12 billion Toumans in the Bam disaster’ and that it was therefore entitled to raise funds through the sale of items that were ‘no longer of use’.

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