Introduction: On 26 December 2003, a catastrophic earthquake measuring 6.6 on the Richter scale devastated large areas of the city of Bam in south-eastern Iran. More than 40,000 people died, tens of thousands were injured, and almost 20,000 homes were destroyed.
Many national and international search-and-rescue teams were dispatched to the area to provide medical and health services and assist in the evacuation of survivors to undamaged areas.
Problem: The purpose of the study was to evaluate the opinions of survivors about medical responses provided, and the process of reconstruction of health infrastructures.
Methods: This was a descriptive study performed two years after the earthquake. Stratified, two-stage area sampling was used to enroll 211 survivors into the survey. A designed questionnaire was applied to evaluate the respondents' opinions about medical and health responses. The respondents were asked to score their satisfaction on a variety of services on a five-point scale, with 1 being “very poor” and 5 being “very good”.
Results: Family members and relatives comprised the majority of first responders for those injured or trapped (127, 60.2%). Field hospitals deployed by the Red Crescent, international relief teams, and military forces were the first medical facilities for 98 (46.4%) of the casualties. As denoted by the mean values for the satisfaction scores, transportation by aircraft to the backup hospitals received the highest score (4.2), followed by international assistance (4.1), first medical care (3.5), search and rescue (3.3), primary transportation (3.1), and reconstruction and the quality of access to the infrastructures of the city (2.6). Two years after the earthquake, 151 (71.5%) respondents still were living in connexes (temporary accommodations or shelters for victims to live in; resemble a small hotel), only 33 (15.6%) had access to safe drinking water, and 44 (20.9%) did not have sufficient supplies of sanitary food.
Conclusions: In addition to reinforcing the medical and health infrastructures of a society in accordance with geographical and architectural characteristics, effective air evacuation and relief missions carried out by experienced international relief teams can play an important role in the appropriate management of approximately 30,000 casualties after a catastrophic event, such as experience with the Bam Earthquake.