CNN .Com 10/10/2005
Quake toll tops 30,000
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Searchers were working into the night Monday in an attempt to find more survivors of Pakistan's worst earthquake. The death toll surpassed 30,000, and tempers flared over the pace of relief efforts.
Aid groups and the international community have responded to calls for assistance, but with much of the quake zone virtually inaccessible and bad weather impeding travel, help was slow reaching the most-affected areas.
Many survivors of Saturday's quake have been wading through mountains of rubble in search of survivors, food and clean water.
"We have just opened up the roads with the day and night efforts of the army," Pakistani presidential spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan told CNN.
"We are now trying to reach those areas that we haven't been able to reach so far."
With as many as 5 million people left homeless and living in the open -- and freezing temperatures -- since the quake, Sultan said rescue and recovery teams and aid from many countries were on their way "to the most affected areas."
Government, police and hospital officials estimated Pakistan's death toll at 30,000 but said that number was sure to rise.
Faiza Janmohammad, country director of Mercy Corps, said Pakistan's death toll was about 40,000, but the source of her information was not clear.
And Islamic Relief spokesman Waseem Yaqhoob told CNN he thought the deaths would reach "80,000, maybe more."
"This could get very close to tsunami levels," he said. "It's horrific. It really is terrible."
Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on Sunday that another 43,000 people were injured in the quake.
Regarding the casualty figures, he said, "They will certainly go up."
The 7.6-magnitude quake was felt across South Asia -- from central Afghanistan to western Bangladesh -- shaking three nations and bringing down a large apartment building in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. (See video on survivors pulled from rubble )
The epicenter of the quake was in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which sits in the Himalayan foothills 60 miles (96 kilometers) northeast of Islamabad. (Full story)
The Pakistani army hospital in Muzaffarabad suffered heavy damage, and mass burials were being held on Monday.
There also are reports of looting in Muzaffarabad.
"They've lost everything. They have no clothes, no food, nothing," resident Asim Butt told Reuters. "People have started looting things from shops."
Also badly hit was Pakistan's North-West Frontier province, where many villages were completely leveled and roads destroyed, making travel all but impossible.
CNN's Matthew Chance, reporting Monday from the city of Balakot in the North-West Frontier province, described a "scene of utter devastation," saying nearly every building in the tourist town of 250,000, had been destroyed. (Eyewitness accounts)
People picked through the rubble with pick axes and their bare hands, looking for family and friends, Chance said, adding there were only four doctors to serve the thousands of injured.
Relief and rescue workers have yet to reach 30 percent to 40 percent of the affected areas, a military spokesman, Brig. Shah Jahan, said.
The United Nations has warned that more than 2.5 million people are in need of shelter following the earthquake, The Associated Press reported.
'Bear with us'
Across wide areas there is no power, or adequate food or water. Pakistanis have camped out in the streets overnight, fearful of returning home because of aftershocks, one of which measured 6.2 in magnitude.
Some slept in their cars, while others gathered in outdoor areas such as soccer fields.
Many survivors have been critical of the government's relief operation. They say thousands still need help, and with only a trickle of aid, angry Kashmiris were blocking roads and demanding relief. (Full story)
Meeting with victims, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has appealed for patience and calm.
"For heaven's sake bear with us. There are certain limitations. We are trying our best,'' he said.
Government officials are focusing on getting help to dig survivors from the rubble, take them to hospitals and begin repairing the region's shattered infrastructure.
Aziz, the Pakistani prime minister, has appealed to the international community to send heavy-lift helicopters as well as tents, blankets, medicine and "hundreds of millions of dollars."
Nations come forward
Planes packed with supplies are arriving, while rescue teams are being dispatched to help those who have been left injured, homeless or stranded. (Full story)
Late Sunday, the White House announced the United States would provide initial aid of up to $50 million for reconstruction and relief efforts in Pakistan. (Full story)
U.S. President George W. Bush has become an ally of Pakistan, using the nation's help since the September 11 attacks on America, and he was quick to come forward with help.
The United States is sending five CH-47 Chinook helicopters and three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from Afghanistan, the Central Command said in a written statement.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said ties to Pakistan "are made even closer by the large population of British citizens who trace their origin to the Kashmir region. Such ties make the growing number of casualties even harder to bear."
A second emergency team from Britain arrived Sunday in Islamabad, the Foreign Office said, bringing fire brigades and search dogs.
European Union Commissioner Louis Michel said he was sending $4.4 million in emergency relief aid to the region.
The United Nations has been coordinating relief efforts from the international airport in Islamabad, said Jan Egeland, U.N. undersecretary for humanitarian affairs.
But the need is staggering, Egeland added, with the number of homeless rivaling those left without shelter after last year's tsunami in South Asia.
"There will be need for hundreds of thousands of tents and emergency shelter for all the people who have lost everything," he said.
Military tensions aside
Political tensions between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region appeared to take a back seat as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called Musharraf and offered help.
The two nations have fought three wars -- two of them over Kashmir -- since independence from British rule in 1947.
"We have offered all possible assistance for rescue and relief measures," Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna told CNN from New Delhi.
Musharraf said he thanked the Indian leader for the offer. "Whatever we need, we will certainly ask," he said, though he noted that there is "a little bit of sensitivity there."
Senior international correspondents Satinder Bindra and Matthew Chance, correspondent Ram Ramgopal, producers Syed Mohsin Naqvi and John Raedler and journalists Mukhtar Ahmed in Srinagar and Tom Coghlan in Kabul contributed to this report.