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Iran earthquake toll revised down to 26,500
www.chinaview.cn 2004-01-02 21:23:02

    BAM, Iran, Jan. 2 (Xinhuanet) -- The death toll from the recent devastating earthquake in southeast Iran's Bam City has been revised down to 26,500 from 28,000 as humanitarian aid operations are in full swing there.

    A situation report released by the United Nations On-Site Coordination and Operation Center (UNOSCOC) in Bam on Friday quoted local authorities as saying that the official number of burials has reached 26,500, and that the final death toll is expected to reach 30,000 when the registration of all burials is completed.

    International search and rescue efforts in the quake-stricken city are winding down while the last international search and rescue teams are leaving the city or changing their mission to humanitarian aid.

    More and more bulldozers and other heavy machinery have been moved in to clear the sites in search for corpses buried under therubble of falling buildings.

    When the earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale struck on Dec. 26, some 80 percent of the buildings in Bam were destroyed.

    Thanks to efforts of the Iranian government and international humanitarian aid organizations, all the survivors from the earthquake have been allocated a tent and have been settled in thevicinity of their former homes. Some have sought refuge with theirrelatives outside the city, which had a population of 80,000 to 100,000 before the earthquake.

    The affected area has been divided into 12 sectors by the Red Crescent Society of Iran and the work of humanitarian aid in each of these sectors is being shared among a number of branches of theRed Crescent Society.

    The Iranian authorities have decided to issue monthly ration cards to survivors of the earthquake. Construction of the first ofthree planned camps has been completed and officials say more willbe erected when the need arises.

    The government has put the number of homeless in Bam following the earthquake at between 40,000 and 60,000. However, officials say more specific figures are difficult to establish at this stageof the emergency, as some survivors are staying with relatives in other parts of the country.

    Over the past two days, civilian traffic on the roads in and around Bam has returned to normal, while people are returning to their destroyed homes to search for belongings.

    The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) has established a field hospital in the area to receive patients. The hospital is expected to remain operational in Bam for the next 12 months. Besides the IFRC, a number of other countries or international organizations have also set up field hospitals in Bam to deliver medical assistance to those injured in the earthquake.

    The local authorities are planning to reopen the schools in Bamon Jan. 10, depending on the conditions of the school buildings and availability of teachers. According to official estimates, 23 school buildings in the city have been totally destroyed in the earthquake, and a number of others damaged.

    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-stricken city. Enditem

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