All over Bam anxious groups of people clustered around what looked like bomb sites scattered across this historic city as rescue workers and frantic relatives dug into the piles of rubble hoping to find someone still alive.
At one of the many scenes of devastation, neighbours said that eight families had perished in their entirety.
Five more bodies were dug out at this one site alone as we watched.
The international relief effort is focusing on survivors
They were taken away to join the piles of corpses at the nearby cemetery, being buried in communal graves.
One distraught father who dug out the bodies of his three student children with his own bare hands was trying to get their remains transported to their home town in the north.
But the main emphasis of the relief effort at this stage is on saving those who are still alive.
Several teams of rescue specialists from abroad have joined thousands of Iranian Red Crescent relief workers who flooded into the area.
At the city's small airport, hundreds of badly injured victims were being carried onto the tarmac on stretchers, blankets or even airport trolleys.
They were loaded onto plans to be flown to Tehran for treatment.
But with many thousands of people facing cold nights out in the open, the other huge challenge is to provide shelter, food and water for all those who have lost their homes.