- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2005

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan — Rescue efforts gave way to aid relief, as hopes faded yesterday of finding more survivors in Pakistan’s devastated quake zone. Still, miracles emerged amid the misery: A Russian team rescued a 5-year-old girl trapped for nearly 100 hours under the rubble of her family home.

Trucks and helicopters with aid from dozens of countries choked roads up to the crumbling towns of the Himalayan region of Kashmir, but the hungry and homeless in hard-hit areas remained isolated four days after the temblor.

“No country is ready for such a disaster,” President Pervez Musharraf said in a nationally televised address, acknowledging delays in his government’s response but saying relief operations were fully under way.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Islamabad, where Pakistani leaders appealed for tents, water, blankets and clearing equipment.

“We will be with you in your hour of need. We will be with you not just today but also tomorrow,” Miss Rice said at a press conference with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

The 7.6-magnitude quake Saturday demolished whole towns, mostly in Kashmir, divided by a cease-fire line between Indian and Pakistani territories. The death toll was thought to be more than 35,000, with tens of thousands injured.

A strong aftershock shook the capital Islamabad early today, causing buildings to move for a few seconds. It was not clear what the aftershock’s magnitude was or whether it caused any damage.

U.S., Pakistani, German and Afghan helicopters delivered tents, blankets and medical equipment and brought back dozens of badly injured people on each flight. The choppers flew in clear skies after stormy weather forced the suspension of flights Tuesday.

At a landing zone in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan’s part of Kashmir, doctors selected only the most severely injured for evacuation.

The United Nations estimated that 4 million people were affected, including 2 million who lost homes, and warned that measles, cholera and other diseases could break out. About 50,000 Pakistani troops joined the relief effort.

Washington has pledged $50 million in relief aid to Pakistan, a key ally in its fight against terror. British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced an additional $17.5 million, on top of $3.5 million already promised.

The World Bank said it would double its initial commitment of aid to Pakistan to $40 million and said the long-term amount could run to hundreds of millions of dollars.

American private donors, overwhelmingly generous after the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, were responding much more slowly to the devastating earthquake in Pakistan.

Though no overall figures have been compiled, aid agencies including the American Red Cross and the World Food Program say earthquake contributions have lagged well behind the pace of donations for the tsunami in December.

Still, relief supplies poured in from about 30 countries, including 25 tons of tents, medical supplies and food from longtime rival India.

Most of the quake’s victims were in Pakistan, with more than 1,400 people killed in Indian Kashmir. New Delhi’s aid offer and Pakistan’s acceptance reflect warming relations between the nuclear-armed rivals, who fought two of their three wars over Kashmir and embarked on a peace process last year.

In Muzaffarabad, desperate residents mobbed trucks arriving with food and water, grabbing whatever they could and pushing aside the weak.

Zarabe Shah, 5, survived almost exactly four days until Russian rescuers with search dogs, listening devices and breath-detecting equipment pulled her out at 9 a.m. yesterday and took her to a camp for homeless quake survivors.

“I want to drink,” she whispered, her cropped hair caked with dust. An elderly man fed her tiny sips of water from a blue plastic bottle cap.

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