Nearly 8,000 people were evacuated from cities and towns shattered by Armenia's earthquake as authorities began trying to clear the area of all but workers involved in the cleanup effort, Pravda reported Monday.
Another 4,500 mothers and children were expected to leave for Anapa, a Soviet children's resort in the Crimea, the official Communist Party newspaper said. Within two to three days, only men involved in the reconstruction should remain, it said.Mother Teresa, the 1979 Nobel Peace laureate, offered the Soviets Monday the assistance of her religious order, the Missionaries of Charity, which operates orphanages, hospitals, food centers and schools in more than 25 countries.
The Roman Catholic nun met in the Armenian capital of Yerevan with Prime Minister Nikolai I. Ryzhkov, who "warmly thanked her for the kind feelings, compassion, and the offered aid," Tass said.
Tass did not say whether the Soviets agreed to accept help from her order. In the past, churches and religious groups have been barred from engaging in public assistance or operating hospitals, schools and other social services.
The Soviets say they have received $100 million in earthquake aid from 77 countries.
Tass said the Soviet Union reached agreement with American Telephone & Telegraph Co. to allow Armenians to call collect to the United States, where many have friends and relatives. Soviets usually cannot place collect calls.
The official news agency said Saturday that since the quake, telephone traffic between Armenia and the United States has increased eight-fold.
There were no reports of survivors being found Sunday or Monday.
Pravda said 15,252 people were dug out alive from the rubble in the first 10 days after the Dec. 7 quake.
More than 23,000 bodies have been recovered, but that is less than half the total believed buried in piles of stone and concrete dust that were once the cities of Spitak, Leninakan, Kirovakan and up to 100 villages.
"The smell is becoming more and more pronounced every day" in Spitak, where 15,000 of the city's 25,000 are believed dead, said Boris Yurchenko, a photographer for The Associated Press.
The city was nearly deserted, with a few people searching for relatives remaining behind and taking shelter in garages, Yurchenko said.
Snow and temperatures below freezing hampered relief efforts and posed additional hardships for those left homeless.
There has been no official announcement of an end to the search for survivors, a potentially explosive issue in Armenia where some people have sat in front of bulldozers to prohibit clearing of rubble until it can be searched for victims.
Armenian activists, embittered by Moscow's refusal to grant their demands in a territorial dispute with neighboring Azerbaijan, have accused the central government of not doing enough to warn Armenians of the danger of an impending earthquake and of bungling relief efforts.
Meanwhile in Glendale, Calif., two Armenian-American doctors who returned Sunday from a weeklong tour of earthquake-ravaged towns in Armenia praised relief efforts there and urged continued international cooperation to help the survivors rebuild their shattered lives.
Vartkes Najarian, of Glendale, Calif., and Garo Terzagian, of Orange, Calif., members of a State Department-sponsored relief team that arrived in Armenia Dec. 11 said after a brief initial period of chaos, local officials and international relief teams appeared to have met most of the immediate needs of victims.
Speaking before a crowd of 2,000 mostly Armenian people packed into a high school auditorium, Najarian said there appeared to be adequate food and water and temporary shelter was being arranged for an estimated half-million people left homeless by the Dec. 7 disaster, which killed at least 55,000 people.
What is now needed, he said, are water purification devices, prosthetic supplies for the thousands who lost limbs in the quake, psychiatrists to treat trauma and manpower and supplies to help rebuild destroyed homes, schools and industries.
Terzagian criticized the lack of disaster preparedness that lead to a slow and inadequate response immediately following the tragedy but praised Armenian doctors and other relief workers for making the most of what resources they had.
But Terzagian said that, "The destruction was so immense and so overwhelming that not even the most prepared system would have been able to cope."
Najerian, who is director of Medical Outreach for Armenians and a trustee of the Armenian Assembly of America, suggested that young Armenian-Americans could spend their summers in Armenia helping with the reconstruction.