Accessibility links

South Asia: International Rescue Efforts Continue As Quake's Death Toll Rises

  • Ron Synovitz

http://gdb.rferl.org/987009A4-5C93-43C8-BAA8-11137CEC0E94_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/987009A4-5C93-43C8-BAA8-11137CEC0E94_mw800_mh600.jpg International teams, like this group of U.K. rescuers, have been working with local troops and civilians to help find survivors Foreign rescue teams and aid pledges are pouring into Pakistan and India from around the world after a devastating earthquake killed tens of thousands and left some 2.5 million people homeless in the region. An eight-member team from the United Nations has begun coordinating the relief effort in the hardest-hit areas. Many countries are sending help, as the death toll estimates continue to rise.

Prague, 10 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The official death toll from the 7 October earthquake in South Asia stands at about 20,000. But according to the latest estimates, that number is expected to rise to between 30,000 and 40,000 in Pakistan alone.

Julia Spiry Leverton, a spokeswoman for UNICEF, told reporters in Islamabad that the UN children's agency received the revised death toll estimate from Pakistan's government today. The figures match a worst-case estimate provided to RFE/RL yesterday by General Jan Muhammad Khan, the deputy director of the national geological center in Islamabad.

The 7.6-magnitude earthquake also injured tens of thousands and left as many as 2.5 million people homeless. It was centered to the northeast of Islamabad -- near the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between Indian- and Pakistani-controlled sectors.

In Islamabad, rescue workers early today found one man who had been trapped for 37 hours in a crevice beneath the rubble of a 10-story apartment building.

"I thank Allah for letting me survive and showing me his mercy," the man said. "It was because I had hope that I survived for so many hours. Be patient and be cool-headed in these situations."

The man's rescuers included a rapid reaction team from the United Kingdom that had arrived within hours of the disaster with sniffer dogs and listening equipment. Rescuers say such incidents boost their hopes of finding more survivors, but such teams have yet to reach many of the hardest-hit villages in the mountains northeast of Islamabad -- particularly in the most remote parts of Kashmir that are under Pakistan's control.
An eight-member UN team has begun coordinating relief efforts in the hardest-hit areas. Rescue workers from Turkey, China, Britain, and Germany have been on the ground since yesterday. The Iranian Red Crescent also has sent a team. Russia, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are among the other countries dispatching help.


Tariq Mahmood, the communications minister in that region, said he thinks some 30,000 people have been killed on the Pakistani side of Kashmir alone.

Pakistan's emergency resources are stretched beyond their limits. President Pervez Musharraf yesterday issued an international appeal for tents, blankets, helicopters, and medicine. U.S. President George W. Bush was among those responding to the call for immediate assistance.

The first U.S. plane load of relief supplies landed at Rawalpindi's military airfield near Islamabad early this morning.

The United States also sent eight transport helicopters from a military base in Afghanistan today to help deliver relief supplies to remote mountainous areas in Pakistan, where roads have been blocked.

An eight-member UN team has begun coordinating relief efforts in the hardest-hit areas. Rescue workers from Turkey, China, Britain, and Germany have been on the ground since yesterday. The Iranian Red Crescent also has sent a team. Russia, Japan, Australia, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are among the other countries dispatching help.

In Brussels, NATO ambassadors are due to meet today for a special session to respond to Pakistan's aid requests.

Meanwhile, on the Indian side of the Line of Control, the official death toll rose to more than 750 today. Some 100,000 people are thought to have been left homeless by the quake in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Rescuers and relief workers are desperately trying to reach villages in the area where thousands of people spent a second night exposed to the cold.

Indian officials said 722 people were crushed to death in the towns of Uri and Tangdhar in the worst-affected northern districts.

"All those with serious injuries, both army and civilian, we have evacuated," said Indian Army Colonel D.S. Hooda, the commander in the Uri area. "We have sent medical teams, engineers, and soldiers to four of the remote villages. They are carrying provisions with them."

But as many as 14 more villages on the Indian side of Kashmir are still inaccessible because of landslides that have blocked the narrow mountain roads.

More than two dozen strong aftershocks have been felt across much of northern India and Pakistan since the initial earthquake on 7 October.
XS
SM
MD
LG