Thu, Oct 29, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Rescuers race to attend to isolated quake survivors

‘WE LOST EVERYTHING’:A 60-year-old survivor in Shangla, Pakistan, said that the only thing they had retrieved from rubble was the body of a boy

AFP, ISLAMABAD

Rescuers yesterday raced against time to reach cold and hungry survivors of an earthquake that left entire communities in Afghanistan and Pakistan marooned in remote mountain regions, as the death toll climbed to 370.

Rugged terrain, severed communication lines and an unstable security situation have impeded relief efforts since Monday’s magnitude 7.5 quake ripped through the region, triggering landslides and flattening buildings. Desperate people appealed for blankets, warm clothes and food after the quake leveled thousands of homes, forcing many to camp out in the open in freezing weather.

“No one came to help us. We are sitting in open area. There was rain yesterday and no one came to help us,” said Jamil Khan, a 24-year-old in Shangla, one of the worst-hit districts of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

Pakistan’s confirmed death toll stood at 255, with nearly 1,700 people injured, and authorities warned that the number could spike, with many isolated regions still cut off.

People were reported to be running out of food in many remote areas, with children and elderly people helping to dig through piles of rubble for survivors as they waited for aid to arrive.

“We lost everything. We could not save anything,” said 60-year-old Hakim Khan, another Shangla resident, adding that the only thing they had been able to retrieve from the rubble was the body of a boy.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday pledged compensation for those whose homes have been destroyed.

He was speaking during a trip to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which has seen the bulk of the casualties so far.

The military has been leading Pakistan’s rescue efforts, sending in medical teams, tents and rations and evacuating some people by helicopter.

“Initial assessments suggest that shelter and hygiene will be most likely the main needs, as it is already snowing in some of the more mountainous areas,” said Shelagh Woods, country representative for medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres in Pakistan.

Afghan officials said 115 people were confirmed dead and hundreds more injured, with casualties reported from about a half-dozen of the nation’s 34 provinces, and more than 7,600 homes reported damaged.

Desperate survivors were left marooned on mountaintops in the remote Badakhshan Province, the epicenter of the quake, but Western charities said the Taliban presence there and in other quake-stricken areas was hindering relief efforts.

The insurgents on Tuesday urged aid organizations not to delay in delivering relief, and vowed their fighters would provide “complete help” in affected areas.

However, there was no let-up in fighting, despite those assurances, with the militants claiming to have overrun the remote Darqad District in the quake-hit northern province of Takhar.

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