Military vans equipped with loudspeakers rumbled through the muddy streets of Spitak and urged grief-stricken residents to leave so crews could begin demolishing the remnants of the Armenian city.
In nearby Leninakan, American rescue worker Caroline Hebard told ABC-TV's "Nightline" Thursday that survivors of the Dec. 7 quake were camping out at night around fires near what had been their homes, then searching by day for relatives in the rubble.Mike Tamillow, another American rescue worker in Leninakan, spoke of the "vastness of destruction," telling "Nightline" that rescuers found a 60-year-old woman who had been pinned in wreckage for five days next to her two dead children.
The leg of one of the children was blocking her air pathway, and rescue workers had to amputate the leg to extricate the woman, Tamillow said.
Relief workers in Spitak said Thursday they had given up hope of finding more survivors in the rubble of what used to be the third-largest city in Armenia. An estimated 15,000 of the city's 25,000 residents died in the quake, which measured 6.9 on the Richter scale.
The quake killed at least 55,000 people in the region and left 500,000 homeless.
Julia Taft, an American relief official, said Friday the rescue effort was nearly over. Voices and other signs of life had dropped sharply since Monday, when temperatures fell below freezing, she said.
The official Tass news agency said Thursday only one person had been found alive in Armenia the past 24 hours.
Nouradian Norig Kritkorianizh, first secretary of Spitak's Communist Party, said crews would begin razing the city Sunday after an evacuation expected to take three days. Rebuilding of the city will begin in early spring, he said without elaborating.
Trucks distributed milk, bread, sausages, meat and oranges to survivors in the cold, damp city.
Some people set up what was left of their household belongings - upholstered chairs, mattresses and even an occasional brass bed - around bonfires where it was warmer than inside donated tents.
People pressed against the gates of what was once Spitak's central market, where soldiers distributed coats.
Taft, director of the U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance office, told "Nightline," "It's very important that we understand that we are through practically with the search-and-rescue stage."
Taft, speaking from Frankfurt, West Germany, urged people to send money to the Red Cross or the Armenian Relief Agency but to hold off on traveling to Armenia or sending more supplies because of the congestion there.
"There is a shroud of death," she said somberly. "There are three victims - the people who lost their lives, the people who lived but lost their families and their hope, and the relief workers who feel they should do more."
Teams from France and Britain began heading home Thursday.
Willie McMartin, head of the 14-member International Rescue Corps from Britain, said he doubted anybody was still alive. "If I thought there was someone still alive I would not be sitting here," McMartin told reporters at London's Heathrow airport.