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Death toll rises to 28,000 in Iran quake

A woman cries Tuesday during a relative's funeral in Bam.
A woman cries Tuesday during a relative's funeral in Bam.

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The arrival of U.S. doctors, nurses and aid workers in Bam, are the first American officials in Iran in more than 20 years.
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A family buries a son and struggles to stay warm after the Iran earthquake.
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Partial list of groups providing aid to earthquake victims
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Mohammad Khatami

BAM, Iran (CNN) -- With aftershocks rumbling through the region, the death toll in Bam has reached 28,000 from last week's earthquake, an official in the devastated Iranian city said Tuesday.

The grim numbers came a day after the nation's top political and spiritual leaders visited the ancient city in southeastern Iran and promised to rebuild it.

"Relying on the cooperation and assistance of the Iranian nation, we will reconstruct Bam," Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said Monday, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.

"From now on, we all need to talk about life, and hand in hand, try to reconstruct the quake-stricken regions."

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also inspected damage caused by Friday's 6.6-magnitude quake. (Satellite view of Bam)

"I offer my condolences to all families, brothers and sisters who lost their loved ones in this catastrophe with all my heart," he said.

Khamenei urged all Iranians and groups to help, saying, "Aid should continue to come so that, God willing, it will be possible to rebuild the city of Bam better and this time stronger than before."

Though international teams joined the effort to locate survivors, rescuers held out little hope of finding anyone alive.

But there was some good news, with three survivors being pulled from underneath the rubble in the past day, according to Ted Pearn of the U.N. Disaster Assessment Coordination Team in Bam.

"We must continue to be hopeful somewhere people might be recovered and combine that with other aid needs or concerns like disease and shelter," Pearn said.

He said it was important rescuers scanned all parts of the ruined city in a coordinated manner. By the end of Tuesday, he said that officials would have an overall picture of what Bam needs in aid.

U.N. aid officials said water and electricity had been restored to major parts of the city. They said there were critical shortages of medicines, plastic sheeting, kitchen sets, stoves, blankets and food.

Large sections of the city haven't been searched by rescue teams or even by any of the thousands of Iranians who picked through the wreckage. Heavy equipment has been called in to remove rubble.

Aid to survivors

Efforts are shifting to focus on assisting those who survived the horrific quake.

Tens of thousands of people are homeless. Many of them are sleeping in tents donated by international aid agencies.

International aid continued to pour into the region in the midst of the humanitarian crisis.

Planes delivering supplies and personnel from at least 21 countries have converged on the airport in the provincial capital of Kerman, where they were unloaded for the 120-mile drive to Bam.

A team of more than 60 American aid and disaster assessment workers arrived in Iran.

Some have hailed U.S. involvement as a possible avenue for improved relations between Tehran and Washington, which have been strained since President Carter's administration.

In November 1979, Iranian students overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, holding 52 embassy employees captive for 444 days.

CNN's Kasra Naji contributed to this report.

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