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1147Quake toll rises to 18,000 in worst-hit Pakistan

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  • Greg Cannon
    Oct 8, 2005

      Quake toll rises to 18,000 in worst-hit Pakistan

      By Mian Khursheed 24 minutes ago

      MANSEHRA, Pakistan (Reuters) - The death toll from a
      huge south Asia earthquake rose to 18,000 in worst-hit
      Pakistan alone on Sunday, as rescuers dug out hundreds
      of dead children buried under their schools and found
      villages reduced to rubble.

      Teams laboured with cranes and earth-moving equipment
      or used their bare hands in hopes of finding survivors
      trapped beneath shattered masonry from Saturday's

      Striking out from the forest clad mountains of
      Kashmir near the border with India, the quake was the
      strongest to hit south Asia in a century.

      "When the earthquake came it was like Judgment Day,"
      said villager Fazal Elahi, recalling the horror of
      houses collapsing around him as he grieved quietly
      next to the body of his 14-year-old daughter.

      A Pakistani military official said 18,000 were dead,
      confirming a figure given to CNN by President Pervez
      Musharraf's spokesman, Major-General Shaukat Sultan.

      A further 40,000 people were injured in the 7.6
      magnitude quake that struck nearly 24 hours ago,
      Sultan said, calling it the worst devastation in
      Pakistan's history.

      "There are many villages that have been wiped off the
      face of this earth," Sultan said.

      Pakistan's side of Kashmir, the Himalayan region
      disputed with India, was expected to be worst hit.

      Many areas had not been reached because landslides
      triggered by the quake had wiped out roads, Sultan

      The U.S. Geological Survey said the tremor occurred at
      a depth of 10 km. It struck about 95 km northeast of
      Islamabad and was felt across the subcontinent,
      shaking buildings in the Afghan, Indian and
      Bangladeshi capitals.

      The first quake was followed over the next 18 hours by
      more than 20 aftershocks with magnitudes of between
      4.5 and 6.3.


      Some 400 children were killed at two schools in
      Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.

      Damage in Pakistani Kashmir's main city, Muzaffarabad,
      was believed to be severe.

      "Indications are that almost 50 percent of the homes
      have been destroyed," Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told
      BBC World television, referring to Muzaffarabad and
      neighbouring towns.

      Private Geo TV reported that some of Muzaffarabad's
      main buildings, including a military hospital, had
      been destroyed, and that injured people were lying in
      the courtyard of the one working hospital waiting for
      attention from doctors struggling to cope.

      A military spokesman said 215 Pakistani soldiers were
      killed in the hardest-hit areas.

      Indian Kashmir was also battered by the earthquake.
      Police said more than 300 people had been killed and
      hundreds injured.

      Half of the Indian deaths were in Uri, the last big
      town on the road connecting the two sides of the
      violence-scarred region. The dead included 15
      soldiers, some in bunkers close to a military
      ceasefire line.

      Landslides blocked the 300-km (190-mile) road that
      connects Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian
      Kashmir, to the rest of India to the south. The
      Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road linking Indian and
      Pakistani Kashmir, reopened to traffic this year for
      the first time in nearly 60 years, was also blocked.

      Ghulam Rashool, an official at the Pakistan
      Meteorological Department, said it was the strongest
      earthquake in South Asia since the 1905 Kangra
      earthquake that killed 20,000 people in India's Madhya
      Pradesh state.

      In the Pakistani capital Islamabad, 82 survivors were
      recovered from two multi-storey apartment blocks that
      were reduced to rubble. A government official said
      rescuers also found 14 bodies, including those of at
      least three foreigners, an Egyptian and two Japanese.

      Pledges of aid from around the world came within

      President George W. Bush said U.S. aid was on the way
      and Britain said it was sending search and rescue
      experts, sniffer dogs and aid workers.

      U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan sent condolences to
      Pakistan, and a U.N. Disaster and Coordination Team in
      Geneva was on standby to be deployed. Oxfam and other
      aid agencies planned to coordinate their response with
      the United Nations.

      Turkey, which has suffered major earthquakes in the
      past, said it had sent two military planes carrying
      aid, doctors and rescue workers. Japan sent a team of
      49 aid workers.

      In a further sign of easing tension between India and
      Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called
      Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to offer

      (Additional reporting by Robert Birsel and Suzanna
      Koster in Islamabad, Kamil Zaheer in Baramulla, Y.P.
      Rajesh in New Delhi)
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