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Iran: Foreign Aid Arrives For Earthquake Victims

Bam, Iran; 27 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Iran's official news agency IRNA says foreign aid has begun arriving in the country to help survivors of the earthquake that devastated the southeastern city of Bam and may have killed up to 20,000 people. IRNA quotes an official in the provincial governor's office, Assadollah Iranmanesh, as saying the first planes were sent by Britain, Germany, Russia, and Switzerland.

Tehran said earlier today that it will accept aid from all foreign countries except Israel, which Iran does not recognize as a state.

At least 5,000 people are believed to have died immediately in the pre-dawn quake on 26 December, which measured at least 6.3 on the Richter scale. Many more are trapped beneath rubble. The Interior Ministry has put the provisional death toll at 20,000 people, plus more than 30,000 injured.

Survivors lit fires to keep warm as thousands of people whose homes were destroyed spent the night outside in near-freezing temperatures.

The earthquake destroyed much of Bam's historic old city, including much of the 2,000-year-old mud-brick citadel.