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Pakistan Marks Anniversary Of Deadly Earthquake

Children lighting candles on October 7 in memory of those killed in Margalla Towers (epa) October 8, 2006 -- Pakistan today marked the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed an estimated 73,000 people and left over 3 million others homeless, with Pakistan-administered Kashmir hardest-hit.

Muzaffarabad, the administrative capital of Pakistani Kashmir, was devastated by the 7.6-magnitude earthquake. The tremor hit at 8:52 a.m., when schools and offices were full. Collapsing buildings trapped thousands of people who never made it out alive.

A year later, at that fateful morning hour, city residents and visiting President Pervez Musharraf paid tribute to the dead with a minute of silence as sirens wailed in the background.

Musharraf laid a wreath at a monument put in place to remember the quake victims, and also prayed with mourners attending the ceremony.

There was also a memorial service held in Islamabad to remember those killed in the Margala Towers -- the only building in the capital to collapse. An overnight vigil was held at the site of the 10-story residential block, where nearly 50 people died, many of them foreigners.

A further 1,500 people were killed across the cease-fire line in Indian Kashmir.

But shared grief has failed to push Pakistan and India toward a solution to their long-standing territorial dispute over Kashmir, the cause of two wars since they won independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

Promises Of Relief

The Pakistani leader today delivered a speech in which he gave assurances that the bulk of post-earthquake rebuilding will be completed within three years. He also said allegations of corruption will be dealt with firmly. He urged survivors and their families not to give up hope.

"Continue working with the same courage, patience, and perseverance," Musharraf said. "The government of Azad [Free] Kashmir, the armed forces of Pakistan and the government of Pakistan are with you. God willing, your lives will be improved."

Musharraf also toured remote mountain regions of Kashmir by helicopter, where entire villages were flattened by the tremor.

With the cold season closing in on Kashmir, hundreds of thousands of survivors are due to spend a second winter in makeshift shelters.

According to the international aid agency Oxfam, as many as 1.8 million earthquake survivors remain homeless. That figure is disputed by the Pakistan government, which says the number is in the tens of thousands.