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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 13:48 GMT
Rain slows Iran quake aid effort
Iran earthquake survivors
Many survivors have lost family members and homes to the quake
Iranian authorities hope to reach people in the remaining areas affected by the earthquake in the south-eastern Kerman province on Wednesday.

Thousands of people spent a cold night outdoors, unable or too fearful to return home after the quake left at least 450 dead and some 900 hurt.

Kerman's governor said there were still a few inaccessible mountain areas that had not yet been helped.

Heavy rain and snow has hampered the emergency effort.

Survivors

In the village of Houtkan at least 27 more bodies were found in ruins on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to at least 150 in Houtkan alone, AFP news agency said.

The Red Crescent Society has warned that up to half of the village's 1,000 inhabitants might have died in the quake.

ANIMATED GUIDE

But there was renewed hopes as rescuers pulled two young women from under rubble in the village, more than 24 hours after the quake.

One of them emerged almost unscathed and said she had sheltered under the frame of a door as soon as she started feeling the tremor, Reuters news agency reported.

In a few villages, people set up roadblocks to protest against at the delayed aid effort, which forced them to spend the night outdoors with no tents and blankets.

Even though all the injured have been evacuated, some survivors refuse to leave what is left of their property for fear it might fall prey to looters.

On Wednesday, Iranian authorities seemed willing to review their initial rejection of air offers from abroad.

"We are not calling for aid, but we will accept it as we did before", President Mohammad Khatami said, referring to the aftermath of the earthquake that struck the town of Bam in 2003, killing 30,000 people.

The disaster prompted an international relief effort involving even the US, which is generally hostile to Iran.

The latest quake had a 6.4 magnitude and an epicentre near Zarand town, 740km (460 miles) from the capital, Tehran.

We think the death toll will climb to more than 500... once we have gained access to the [remote] villages
Iraj Sharifi
Hospital official

However, many in Iran - which is prone to violent earthquakes - view the latest disaster with concern, our correspondent Frances Harrison reports.

Seismologists warn hundreds of thousands could die if another earthquake were to strike a more densely-populated area.

Rescue difficulties

Many people affected by Tuesday's earthquake spent the night outdoors or in makeshift shelters - either because their homes had been destroyed or because they were scared of aftershocks.

Tents, mosques and vehicles provided a temporary home to many survivors, our correspondent reports.


"We think the death toll will climb to more than 500... once we have gained access to the villages" with the use of helicopters, Iraj Sharifi head of the Kerman University Hospitals told news agency AFP.

Iranian Red Crescent workers have been moving people to nearby towns and cities in Kerman province.

They also worked with sniffer dogs and mountain rescue teams to bring shelter to those in more remote areas, where entire villages are reported to have been levelled.

A resident of Kerman province, Mehdi Assadi, told the Reuters news agency: "There's been no help at all. I myself pulled six people out of the rubble, four of whom were dead."



SEE ALSO:
Sharp media reaction to Iran quake
23 Feb 05 |  Middle East
Race to reach Iran quake victims
22 Feb 05 |  Middle East
In pictures: Iran earthquake
22 Feb 05 |  In Pictures
Hundreds killed in Iranian quake
22 Feb 05 |  Middle East
Survivors recall Iran quake loss
25 Dec 04 |  Middle East


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