กก BAM, Iran, Jan. 1 (Xinhuanet) -- Relief operations in the quake-stricken city of Bam in southeast Iran are shifting to humanitarian aid covering food distribution, refugee settlement and home rebuilding on this New Year's Day, from the search and rescue of possible survivors over the past few days.
So far, dozens of international humanitarian aid agencies have sent teams to the Old Silk Road city devastated by a powerful earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, to extend humanitarian aid to survivors. International humanitarian aid teams that have already arrived in Bam include the International Federation of the Red Cross, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), USAID of the United States, Swiss Rescue and Peace Winds of Japan.
USAID has dispatched a huge team of more than 90 humanitarian aid workers to assist the people of Iran, a country which US President George W. Bush includes in his so-called Axis of Evil. Shortly after the earthquake struck, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said international aid from any country, with the exception of Israel, would be welcome.
In an interview with Xinhua, Cassandra M. Nelson, Senior GlobalMedia and Information Officer with USAID's Mercy Corps said: "First of all, as a US-based humanitarian aid organization, we are very appreciative to the Iranian government and people for their assistance in allowing us to work here to respond to the disaster."
"The priority of our mission here is to assist the Iranian people who have been the victims of the earthquake. We are settingup a camp for about 5,000 survivors and are providing them with tents, water, heaters, blankets and other essential supplies," he added.
"After we have addressed the emergency needs, we will assess the need for reconstruction activities," he also said.
On streets of Bam, Iranian aid workers organized by the Red Crescent Society of Iran are seen busy distributing food aid to survivors, who told Xinhua said they were satisfied with the work of the Iranian government, which has decided to issue monthly ration cards to the alive.
As hopes of finding any more survivors faded, most of the 60 international search and rescue teams from 32 countries and regions have withdrawn, and the remaining ones have changed their functions to humanitarian aid.
According to a situation report released by the United Nations On-Site Coordination and Operation Center (UNOSCOC) in Bam on Thursday, the earthquake killed at least 28,000 in the city of 80,000 to 100,000 people after approximately 90 percent of the affected area has been searched and all corpses have been recovered.
On Thursday, clearing efforts are underway, with bulldozers andother heavy machinery roaring on the sites. Camps are being set upfor the homeless, who are estimated at 40,000-60,000.
On the New Year's Day, civilian traffic on the roads inside andaround Bam is picking up with people returning to their destroyed homes during the day to search for belongings and in the evening leave to stay with relatives outside the city.
The International Federation of the Red Cross has established afield hospital in the area to receive patients. The hospital is expected to operate in Bam for the next 12 months. Iranian hospitals are now starting to release those suffering minor injuries in the earthquake.
Bam used to be a popular tourist spot 1,300 km southeast of Tehran, with a historic citadel and other centuries-old buildings on the ancient Silk Road. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi has said that it would take at least 15 years to rebuild the earthquake-ruined city. Enditem