- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 11, 2005

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan — Shopkeepers clashed with looters yesterday, and hungry families huddled under tents while waiting for relief supplies after Pakistan’s worst earthquake razed entire villages and buried roads in rubble. Death toll estimates ranged from 20,000 to 30,000.

British rescuers yesterday unearthed a man trapped in rubble for 54 hours, while residents using their bare hands freed two girls buried in a collapsed school.

Setting aside decades-old rivalries, Pakistan said it would accept earthquake aid from India. Authorities in New Delhi promised delivery “on a very urgent basis.”

Eight U.S. military helicopters from Afghanistan arrived in Islamabad with provisions, and Washington pledged up to $50 million in relief and reconstruction aid, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said.

The United Nations said more than 2.5 million people were left homeless by Saturday’s 7.6-magnitude quake, and doctors warned of an outbreak of disease unless more relief arrives soon.

With landslides blocking roads to many of the worst-hit areas, Pakistan’s army was flying food, water and medicine into the disaster zone. International relief efforts cranked into action, and an American plane full of relief supplies landed at an air base near Pakistan’s capital yesterday.

Most of the dead were in Pakistan’s mountainous north. India reported at least 865 deaths, but Home Secretary V.K. Duggal said it was not expected to rise much higher. Afghanistan reported four.

In a reminder that the disputed Kashmir region is in the grip of an Islamic insurgency, suspected militants killed 10 persons, including four Hindus whose throats were slit in three quake-hit villages, said J.P. Singh, senior superintendent of police.

With the situation dire, Pakistan set aside politics and said it would accept relief aid for earthquake victims from India — backing off of earlier refusals. The nuclear-armed neighbors have been bitter rivals since gaining independence from Britain, fighting three wars, although they have taken several steps to improve relations since last year.

India will send tents, food and medicine and other aid for earthquake-hit areas in the Pakistani portion of Kashmir quickly after Islamabad accepted the offer, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said in the capital, New Delhi. Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said Pakistan’s high commissioner in India has told authorities there “what we need for the victims.”

Other international aid, including emergency-rescue workers, began to flow in. Planes arrived from Turkey, Britain, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. Russia, China and Germany also offered assistance.

In the shattered streets of Muzaffarabad, where at least 11,000 died, an Associated Press reporter saw shopkeepers scuffle with people trying to break into businesses. They beat each other with sticks and threw stones, and some people suffered head wounds. No police were nearby.

Residents of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan’s portion of divided Kashmir, said looters also targeted deserted homes. Survivors lacked food and water, and there was little sign of any official coordination of relief in the devastated city of 600,000. Thousands were now camped in the open.

“Bodies are scattered in the city,” said Masood-ur Rehman, the assistant commissioner of the city. “We are helpless.”

An eight-member team of British rescuers using a dog, drills, chain saws and crowbars pulled a 20-year-old tailor from the rubble yesterday, 54 hours after a two-story building collapsed over him and dozens of others.

The man, Tariq, was wide-eyed and covered in dust when he emerged, and he begged for water.

“I haven’t eaten in three days, but I’m not hungry,” said Tariq, who suffered a leg injury and was carried away on a door serving as a stretcher. He had been trapped beneath concrete and wooden beams, and a dead body lay on either side of him.

In Balakot, Pakistan, a badly hit town in North West Frontier Province, townspeople broke through concrete to rescue two girls from a shattered school. Several men brushed dust from the clothes of one girl and gave her water.

The quake was felt across a wide swath of South Asia, with damage spanning at least 250 miles, from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to Srinagar in northern Indian territory.

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