Thursday's staggering earthquake that struck northwestern Iran killed more than 32,000 people, injured at least 100,000 and left another 100,000 without a place to live, reports indicated Friday.
And despite a 10-year-old foreign policy that has left Iran largely isolated, international relief agencies and several countries, including the United States, offered assistance and some Red Cross teams were reportedly on their way to the stricken country.Iran's mission to the United Nations issued a statement late Thursday pleading for medicine and medical supplies, tents, food, blankets and sleeping bags.
Japan on Friday pledged relief funds and goods worth more than $1.5 million, and the European Community agreed to donate $1.2 million in aid.
Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, in a message to Iranian President Hashemi Raf-sanjani, said the United Nations was ready to provide all possible assistance. Its disaster relief coordinator dispatched an emergency team, and an airlift of emergency supplies from U.N. warehouses was undertaken in coordination with Iranian authorities, officials said.
President Bush offered humanitarian assistance and sent a message of condolence to the government.
"We are saddened by the damage and the loss of life," spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said. "We are also expressing our willingness to provide appropriate humanitarian assistance should it be requested."
Reports reaching Tehran on Friday said the quake that hit at 12:31 a.m. Thursday left scores of villages in ruin on the slopes of the Alborz Mountains between the Caspian Sea and Zanjan, some 175 miles northwest of Tehran.
Rescue work continued through the night, but thousands were believed still buried under the rubble.
In a midafternoon broadcast Friday, Tehran radio said 32,260 people were killed and thousands were homeless. Iran's U.N. mission said 100,000 were injured.
The U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., measured the temblor at 7.7 on the Richter scale, one of the strongest ever recorded in the quake-prone area. An Iranian reading measured the quake at 7.3.
It was the worst quake to hit Iran since Sept. 16, 1978, when nearly 25,000 people died.
Television footage from the mountainous region showed hillsides strewn with the rubble of devastated villages. Some of the rubble appeared to have rolled hundreds of feet down the slopes.
A few dazed children were seen wandering among huge boulders, but no adults were in sight. Some houses appeared to have sunk deep into the Earth.
Hospitals in Tehran were filled with survivors flown from the stricken areas. Rescuers set up field hospitals and mass graves were being dug to bury the dead, the reports said.
Bad weather hampered relief and rescue work and landslides made it difficult to reach remote areas hardest hit by the quake.
The official Islamic Republic News Agency said 10,000 people were reported to have been killed in Gilan province, which borders the Caspian and was nearest the epicenter.
In Zanjan, the known death toll rose overnight to 2,300 but the state television said thousands were believed still buried under debris. Relief workers took bulldozers to stricken areas to remove rubble.
Gymnasiums and other sports facilities were put at the disposal of medical and relief teams when hospital space became overburdened with victims.
Sadreddin Sadr, of Iran's Red Crescent relief organization, the equivalent of the Red Cross, said in an interview on Cable News Network that 100,000 people were reported homeless.
At least 100 aftershocks hit the stricken area Thursday and early Friday. The strongest measured 6.5 on the Richter scale.
Although Iran is rich in oil, recent reports indicate financial problems because of falling oil prices and the country had been holding preliminary negotiations with major international lenders for an infusion of cash.
Killer earthquakes are not rare in Iran. Two quakes in the summer of 1981 left about 11,000 people dead. About 25,000 died in the September 1978 quake in the eastern Taba region.
The toll-free number set up by the American Red Cross for contributions is 1 (800) 842-2200.