Search teams are still looking for at least 400 bodies buried under the rubble of the Armenian town of Leninakan nearly three weeks after the devastating Dec. 7 earthquake, the official Tass news agency said Tuesday.
Tass quoted Boris Shcherbina, deputy chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers and a member of a Politburo commission in charge of relief and rehabilitation, as saying 10,800 bodies have been recovered in Leninakan.Shcherbina said an estimated 8,000 people have been rescued from the rubble of Leninakan, which had housed about 280,000 people 50 miles north of Yerevan, the Armenian capital, before the quake.
"Some 400 bodies remain to be pulled from under the debris . . . and this will be done by the beginning of the new year," he was quoted as saying.
Shcherbina's comments seemed to indicate that the death toll in Leninakan would stand at about 11,200.
Soviet officials have estimated that 55,000 people died and another 500,000 were left homeless in the areas of the Armenian republic hit by the quake. Along with Leninakan, a similiar-size town of Kirovakan and the village of Spitak with a population of 30,000 were among the worst hit areas.
Shcherbina also told Tass that schools in Leninakan for the 10,000 children remaining behind in the city would be opened early next month.
Soviet television said heavy snowfall in the region has clogged roads and hampered the delivery of relief supplies to remote villages.
The Politburo commission estimated it will take rubles 6.5 billion, or $10.4 billion, and two years to rebuild the devastated areas.