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Iran Quake Death Toll Continues to Rise - 2003-12-30


Iran's state radio says a total of 28,000 bodies have been recovered from the debris left behind by Friday's deadly earthquake in the southeastern Iranian city of Bam. Local officials say the final death toll could top 30,000. In the meantime, aid workers in Iran are urgently appealing for more supplies to help the tens of thousands of survivors from the earthquake that all but destroyed the ancient city.

With hope of finding more survivors dwindling, the international relief effort in the earthquake-devastated southeastern Iranian city of Bam is transitioning from search and rescue to humanitarian assistance.

Aid workers are pleading for more clothing, blankets, tents, cooking sets, large containers to store drinking water and medicines for the tens of thousands of residents left homeless by Friday's deadly quake. Aid workers say there is still a significant number of people without shelter while nighttime temperatures dip to near freezing.

Restoring health care services has become a top priority after Bam's two main hospitals were destroyed by the quake.

Search and rescue teams from dozens of countries have begun to abandon efforts to find possible survivors trapped beneath rubble, although spirits were lifted Monday when rescuers announced a six-month-old baby girl had been pulled alive from the wreckage of her dead mother's home.

Thousands of the dead have been buried in mass graves excavated by mechanical diggers.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who has pledged that the city will be rebuilt within two years, was to hold a cabinet meeting Tuesday to discuss the relief effort. Mr. Khatami said attention must now focus on the living and vowed the affected areas would be reconstructed.

Seventy percent of the ancient city was destroyed by the quake that U.S. scientists said measured 6.6 on the Richter scale.

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