- The Washington Times - Friday, October 14, 2005

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan — Rescue workers abandoned the search yesterday for any survivors trapped in the rubble of last week’s earthquake, though individual efforts continued, with an 18-month-old girl pulled out alive from the ruins of her home.

A top U.N. official warned that reconstruction of the devastated region will cost billions of dollars and take up to a decade. Weather forecasters said heavy rain expected in the quake zone this weekend could disrupt efforts to provide food and shelter to an estimated 2 million people ahead of the harsh Himalayan winter.

With Pakistan’s death toll from last Saturday’s earthquake estimated at more than 35,000, Jan Egeland, the U.N. undersecretary-general and emergency relief coordinator, said the search-and-rescue phase was now over. “It’s a cruel reality. But after a week, very few people survive,” he said.

Still, a doctor, Mazhar Hussain, told Pakistan’s GEO television and the British Broadcasting Corp. that his rescue team had pulled the toddler, unconscious but alive, from under the door of her collapsed house, which had protected her. Her mother and two brothers were found dead nearby, but her father survived.

“Her right hand is broken and she has a fracture in her left leg,” he said on GEO, speaking from Balimang in the North West Frontier Province, where the girl was found.

Mr. Egeland, who traveled to hard-hit areas, said he feared bottlenecks of relief supplies.

“If we don’t work together, we will become a disaster within a disaster,” he said, estimating it would take billions of dollars and five to 10 years to rebuild.

In Islamabad, police began a criminal investigation into the collapse of a 10-story luxury residence that was the capital’s only structure to fall in the magnitude-7.6 quake, killing at least 40 residents.

“We will arrest all those who didn’t perform their duty well,” said the city’s police chief, Sikandar Hayat. “They might be the builders, contractors or supervisors.”

Most of Pakistan’s deaths were in the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir, where snow has started to fall in some areas. India has reported more than 1,350 deaths in the portion of Kashmir it controls.

Many exhausted relief workers dealt with the added burden of fasting during the days for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Water and electricity were restored to parts of Muzaffarabad, a Kashmiri city of 600,000 in the heart of the quake zone.

Millions of Muslims thronged mosques across Pakistan on Friday, the Muslim sabbath, to offer prayers for those who died in the earthquake. Some clerics said the quake was a sign that God was unhappy with his people. About 1,500 worshippers gathered inside a damaged mosque in the center of Muzaffarabad.

“God, forgive us,” said the cleric, Maulana Sazluddin Chishdi. “Help all those who are helping others in this hard time, and give the nation courage to bear this loss and take part in the reconstruction of this city.”

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