'Oh Ali. Oh Ali. Oh Ali my brother is dead. My flower is gone. Oh God, our young people are dying.' The woman's mourning pierced the low din of crawling traffic as she watched her brother carried past her in a bloody blanket. 'Khoda. Khoda. Khoda,' she cried, invoking the name of God, 'my world is over'. Thirty-six hours after an earthquake flattened the ancient city of Bam killing more than 20,000 people, the woman stood by a small lane off the main street grieving as the corpses that had been her neighbours were carried out in sheets, mattresses and blankets and loaded on to a pink suburban bus. The scene was repeated across Bam. Women wailed and slapped their faces in grief; men scrambled through broken concrete in an effort to extract the dead - for few held out hope of finding anyone alive. As the woman's wailing continued, a few metres away Majid Bahman stepped aside as a confused and crying youth carried a dead child toward the street. Majid was in a state of shock, and his bearded face showed little emotion as he spoke. 'We started feeling the ground shake about two hours before the main earthquake, but it was a cold night so we did not leave the house,' he said, pointing to the pile of rubble that was once his home. 'After this house collapsed, five people were dug out without any injury. It was a miracle, but 15 or 16 members of my family are dead.' Nearby, 20 men laboured brick by brick to clear rubble from one of Bam's thousands of collapsed buildings. A leg was found protruding from between two slabs of concrete. Bare hands dug out the body and soon it was wrapped in a blanket and added to the steady stream being loaded into the bus. With another bitterly cold night approaching, promises of aid from Tehran and abroad were of little relevance to the increasingly frustrated homeless of Bam. 'There are not enough tents, not enough blankets,' said Hossein, who lost nine members of his family. 'We have no food, no water, no electricity, no telephone. We have nothing left, no house, no property. What have we got? We have nothing.' Majid agreed. 'We need housing, first and foremost. And we need dogs to help find the dead. Why has nothing arrived here yet?' Dogs were on the way, but few people knew. The near complete breakdown in communication and a lack of any apparent co-ordinating authority has made radio and rumour the only sources of information. Few in Bam know who is alive, who is dead or what is being done to help. Back at the lane the flow of dead is unrelenting - in the 15 minutes I spoke with Majid, more than 20 bodies were carried past us and the wailing women. The pink bus was full, and a few family members crammed into the doorways for the 2km trip to the cemetery. The bus joined the crawling, chaotic traffic on Beheshti St: an ancient Nissan pick-up loaded high with one of the thousands of families going elsewhere to seek shelter for the night; an earthmoving truck with more than a dozen bodies lying uncovered in the tray; a tiny sedan with weeping men crammed into the cabin, two shovels and two bodies in the boot. With reality slowly sinking in, Bam was beginning to bury its dead. From all over the city, streets leading to the cemetery were transformed into a slow, traffic-jammed funeral procession. The radio reported that as many as 35,000 may have died in the quake. But death tolls have a numbing anonymity and even here, with the broken buildings and battered people, it is difficult to appreciate the scale of this disaster. But at the Behesht Zahra cemetery the full horror can be seen. The truck and the pink bus disgorged their cargo of dead in this dusty place at the edge of the desert. Their feet sticking out from beneath blankets, toes tied together, the dead were lined up beside graves hurriedly being dug by giant orange mechanical diggers. Bodies were buried almost as soon as they were found. No one noted names, no one marked who was being buried where. 'Many of these are entire families' said Sharmorad Zadeh, a teacher helping fill the graves, 'there is no one left to identify them.' As the sun set behind a nearby stand of Bam's famous date palms, there were still hundreds of people digging and grieving. Elsewhere, the long-awaited aid was beginning to arrive in earnest. Busloads of soldiers and Islamic militiamen were driving in the city, along with medical supplies, tents and water. But for many it was too late. An exodus of people jammed the road to Kerman city, all trying to get to the home of a relative before the temperature again fell below freezing. Traffic on the road had become so congested it took two hours to travel 5km. As we crept along we picked up three men in military fatigues. They had been in Bam for eight hours but were leaving, frustrated. 'We were sent here and are eager to help, but there is no co-ordination, no one is in charge,' complained Ali-Reza. 'No one has any idea what to do.'