Iran raises Bam death toll to 41,000

TEHERAN: Iran yesterday raised the death toll for the Dec 26 earthquake in the city of Bam to 41,000, with a close aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying the final figure could hit 45,000, state media reported. 

“In this incident, up until now 41,000 of the people of Bam have been killed and there is a possibility that this could increase to 45,000. This is a great catastrophe,” Mohammad Mohammadi-Gholpayghani was quoted as saying by the news agency Irna. 

He heads the office of the supreme leader, who made his second visit to the quake-devastated city to inspect recovery and relief operations yesterday. 

Previous official estimates had put the death toll at between 30,000 and 35,000, although recovery crews in Bam have continued to pull out bodies as they work to clear away the rubble from the city, 80% of which was flattened by the quake. 

The city had close to 100,000 residents, according to official figures. 

Khamenei's office also pledged that reconstruction work would be accelerated. 

A senior provincial official said police and intelligence staff were also engaged in cracking down on “opportunists” who swarmed the city to steal some of the massive amounts of aid supplies – especially tents – that poured into the city from across the country 

“All officials have to give their full attention to Bam. Their efforts so far deserve recognition and these efforts should be accelerated. The leader says Bam must be rebuilt, so his orders must materialise,” Mohammadi-Gholpayghani was quoted as saying. – AFP  

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