Ten days after Armenia's devastating earthquake, rescue workers freed a 62-year-old woman from a collapsed building Saturday, but officials indicated they will soon halt efforts to rescue others.
A national Politburo commission overseeing relief operations in northwestern Armenia said the "first and most acute stage of rescue operations is drawing to an end," the official Tass news agency reported from Yerevan, Armenia's capital. The high-level commission said preparations are under way to rebuild housing, factories and farms in the zone struck by the Dec. 7 quake.Prime Minister Nikolai I. Ryzhkov, who heads the commission, said "the focus of the relief effort will soon shift to restoration work," Tass reported.
However, in a possible split between Moscow and Armenian officials on relief priorities, Armenian Communist Party leader Suren Arutunyan said "rescuing people is remaining the main task in the stricken areas," Tass said.
Meanwhile, leaders of government ministries met Saturday in Yerevan to determine how to rebuild the ravaged area, where the homes of an estimated 500,000 people were ruined.
The official casualty toll in the earthquake that rocked northwestern Armenia is an estimated 55,000 dead with thousands injured. Tass said Saturday night that 23,390 bodies have been recovered. That would mean about an equal number of victims may still lie buried in the ruins.
In the past 24 hours, the woman in Leninakan was
the only survivor found by rescue parties combing through debris, Tass said late Saturday. Altogether, 89 bodies were also removed from collapsed apartment houses and other buildings, it said.
Worsening weather will bring wet snow and wind to the quake zone, where tens of thousands are living in tents or in the open air, the Politburo commission said Saturday. Tass said said 9,862 people were evacuated from the disaster area Friday and Saturday and more than 24,000 people who lost their homes were living in the region in other shelters.
An Armenian official told Soviet television Friday night that 20 people had been found alive in the ruins of Leninakan on Thursday and one in Spitak, an Armenian city virtually destroyed in the quake.
However, a government official overseeing search and rescue efforts in Leninakan, once home to more than 250,000 people, said it was now just as urgent to uncover and bury the dead as it was to find more survivors. Otherwise, disease could spread, said Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Vardkes Artsruny.
In Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross urged a temporary halt to planning new flights of worldwide relief shipments to the Soviet republic to assess where relief was most needed and avoid waste.
Edgard Eeckman, a spokesman for the League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said "It's not that that there are no more needs in Armenia. The message is, let's stop for a little while to make an evaluation."
The trapped woman in Leninakan, identified by witnesses only as Lucy, was eased from the rubble after a 20-member rescue team from Czechoslovakia heard her voice from underneath, witnesses said.
It took 21/2 hours to free the gray-haired woman from the wreckage of what had been the kitchen of a third-floor apartment.
The bodies of four children, apparently the woman's grandchildren, were also found in the debris.
The woman, who looked alert and gripped the stretcher she was placed on, was rushed to a hospital. Chief Dr. Sergei Uruman marveled that she was still alive after being buried for 10 days, but said she had suffered extensive injuries to a thigh and was in critical condition.
"It was a miracle, but I doubt she will live," said Uruman.
Near the ruined nine-story building, sobbing by a smoldering campfire, sat the woman's daughter, who appeared to be in her 40s. She repeated the names of relatives killed in the same apartment where her mother was found.
In another section of the wrecked building, rescue workers uncovered the bodies of a man, woman and child who had died while huddled together.
The Armenian official whose report was broadcast on Soviet television Friday said the discovery of a survivor in Spitak spurred officials there to continue looking for survivors for 10 more days. An estimated 15,000 of 25,000 people in that city were killed.
Artsruny said rescue efforts would continue for a few more days in Leninakan, but no firm deadline to stop had been set.
Ryzhkov has said some of the rescue work is going slowly because relatives are lying in front of bulldozers to prevent them from moving in until their relatives' bodies were recovered.
In Leninakan, Artsruny said demolition of buildings left partially standing could begin in two days.