Xinhuanet: The World Bank approved a 220-million-dollar loan Thursday to the Government of Iran for a project to help restore the living conditions of communities in the southeastern city of Bam which was struck by a powerful earthquake nearly a year ago. The four-year project, the Bam Earthquake Emergency Reconstruction Project, was prepared in response to the Government of Iran's request to support its reconstruction efforts after the December 28, 2003 earthquake, the World Bank said in a press release. Xinhuanet

WASHINGTON - The World Bank approved a 220-million-dollar loan Thursday to the Government of Iran for a project to help restore the living conditions of communities in the southeastern city of Bam which was struck by a powerful earthquake nearly a year ago.

The four-year project, the Bam Earthquake Emergency Reconstruction Project, was prepared in response to the Government of Iran's request to support its reconstruction efforts after the December 28, 2003 earthquake, the World Bank said in a press release.

Measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale, the earthquake left more than 26,000 people dead, 30,000 injured and up to 75,600 homeless. It destroyed 85 percent of the buildings and severely affected infrastructure networks, according to the press release.

The project will help restore housing in Bam with improved safety standards, reducing their vulnerability to future earthquakes.

In addition, it will finance the rehabilitation and reconstruction of telecommunication and transport infrastructure, including the highway linking Bam to the provincial capital of Kerman, airport facilities and village streets.

While the project focuses mainly on physical reconstruction, it will also seek to improve Bam's preparedness for emergencies by ensuring that existing strategic public buildings are strengthened to become earthquake-resistant.

"Given that Iran is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, the project was designed with the double objective of reconstruction and boosting preparedness to have a far-reaching impact on Bam's ability to respond to future natural disasters," Joe Saba, Country Director for Iran, was quoted as saying.

The project is based on the World Bank's strategy for disaster assistance which helps governments adopt preventive measures to reduce their vulnerability to disasters, integrate disaster prevention in development efforts and build a national culture of prevention and preparedness, the press release said.