BAM, Iran – Rescue workers pulled three more survivors from the rubble of Bam's devastating earthquake, including a man saved Thursday after nearly seven days buried under a flattened house. Relief crews restored some electricity and rushed more aid into the ruined ancient city.
A provincial official said the death toll from the Dec. 26 pre-dawn quake would top 30,000 but that it would not reach 40,000.
Although hopes for survivors were fading, workers said they had rescued a 40-year-old man the remains of a home on Thursday. The man was conscious enough to open his eyes from time to time before they sent him to hospital.
Earlier, Iranian television said another survivor, 27-year-old Yadallah Saadatmand, was pulled from the rubble overnight with only a broken pelvis. Television footage on Thursday showed smiling nurses around Saadatmand, who was wearing an oxygen mask inside an ambulance and did not speak.
An 80-year-old deaf and blind woman pulled from the rubble on Wednesday was expected to recover after suffering only a broken shoulder, doctors said Thursday.
"This is the power of God," Dr. Bahman Fasihpour told reporters who saw the woman covered in a blanket and receiving intravenous medication. "She has a fracture in her shoulder. That's her only injury. She will be OK."
Medical workers reported more good news amid the gloom as five babies were born since Tuesday — three boys delivered in a French field hospital and two girls delivered in a Ukrainian field hospital.
U.S. aid workers began admitting patients to an American field hospital Thursday said they were shocked by their initial look at the damage brought by the 6.6-magnitude quake.
"The one in Turkey was the worst, and this is worse than that," said U.S. aid worker Robert Dube, of the Urban Search and Rescue Unit from Fairfax, Va. "The destruction is just complete. Everything that is not down looks like it's at the point where it's not going to be used again."
The American assistance stands out as rare contact between the nations since relations were broken by the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
As a precaution, elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards (search) took positions outside the U.S. hospital, although there were no indications the Americans were not welcome.
The Bush administration temporarily eased restrictions on exports and private assistance to Iran, with Secretary of State Colin Powell saying Wednesday in Washington that "at this time of great emergency, we must do everything we can to help people in desperate need."
Aftershocks have shaken Bam repeatedly since the quake — with two to three a day — and remain a "real danger" because the ruins could easily topple over, said Ted Pearn, the top U.N. relief worker in the city.
Taking a first assessment of the structural damage, six American aid workers passed the remains of crushed cars, women in chadors cooking by gas stoves on the sidewalk beside their tents, and people still searching the rubble for their battered possessions.
Iranian authorities have begun registering people and issuing food ration cards, while aid workers are restoring electricity to parts of Bam. Street lights are now working on main thoroughfares.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (search) was to hold a memorial service in Bam by dusk, Iranian radio reported.
Pearn said officials plan to start setting up three camps with heated tents to get the homeless out of small tents pitched on the roadside that offer little protection from near-freezing nighttime temperatures.
Officials estimate the camps will need to house about 40,000 people — but it's still not clear how many are in the city. It's also unclear how many bodies are buried beneath the rubble.
Iran's orphanages are rapidly filling as aid workers deliver young survivors to the provincial capital of Kerman (search), 120 miles northwest of Bam. An estimated 1,500 children have been recovered without family so far and are being held at orphanages.
Estimates on the death toll varied.
A U.N. report, citing government figures, said the death toll by Tuesday was at least 33,000. A provincial government spokesman, Asadollah Iranmanesh, said the confirmed toll was not yet that high but he predicted it would top 30,000.
"Definitely it will not reach 40,000," Iranmanesh told The Associated Press. He added that 26,500 bodies had been recovered and buried in Bam and surrounding cities.
The U.N. report said 30,000 people were injured, but Iranmanesh put the figure at just 15,000.
Forty-eight countries have sent aid teams, with more than 1,000 foreign workers now at the scene. More than 200 foreign planes have brought assistance to the airports in Dam and Kerman.
A top priority in the days ahead was to prevent the outbreak of typhoid or cholera, though there have been no reports of epidemics yet.
Iranian authorities have an "excellent surveillance system in place for monitoring any possible outbreaks," said Elfatih Elsamani, a World Health Organization (search) representative in Iran.