10/08/2005

Quake Kills More Than 18,000 in South Asia - Yahoo! News

Time to throw a virgin in a volcano, the gods are angry! But where can we find one after Mother Theresa died ??? All kidding aside, India offered help to Pakistan, despite their constant battles over Kashmir, where the quake was centered. Things like that make you have some hope in humanity's survival.. -- law

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A powerful earthquake flattened entire villages of mud-brick homes, triggered landslides and toppled a 10-story apartment building on Saturday, killing more than 18,000 people as it devastated a mountainous swath touching Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

Pakistan's private Aaj television reported the Pakistani death toll had jumped to 25,000. But the report, which included casualties in Pakistani-controlled
Kashmir, gave no source for its figures and there was no immediate confirmation from Pakistani officials but they have said the toll will rise.

The casualty toll from the 7.6-magnitude tremor rose sharply Sunday as rescuers struggled to dig people from the wreckage, their work made more difficult as rain and hail turned dirt and debris into sticky muck.

Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, Pakistan's chief army spokesman said early Sunday that more than 18,000 had been killed — 17,000 of them in Pakistani Kashmir, where the quake was centered. Some 41,000 people were injured, he said.

"The death toll is gradually rising," Sultan told The Associated Press. He said authorities had counted the bodies.

For hours, aftershocks rattled an area stretching from Afghanistan across northern Pakistan into India's portion of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. Hospitals moved quake victims onto lawns, fearing tremors could cause more damage, and many people spent the night in the open.

The earthquake, which struck just before 9 a.m. Saturday, caused buildings to sway for about a minute in the capitals of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, an area some 625 miles across. Panicked people ran from homes and offices, and communications were cut to many areas.

Most of the devastation occurred in the mountains of northern Pakistan, where the dead included 250 girls crushed at a school and 200 soldiers on duty in the Himalayas.

The
U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered about 60 miles northeast of the capital, Islamabad, in the forested mountains of Pakistani Kashmir, and was followed by 22 aftershocks, including a 6.2-magnitude temblor.

"It is a national tragedy," Sultan said earlier. "This is the worst earthquake in recent times."

In Mansehra, about 90 miles northwest of the Pakistani capital, a shopowner named Haji Fazal Ilahi stood vigil over the body of his 14-year-old daughter, which lay under a sheet on a hospital mattress. He said his wife, another daughter and a brother also died when the family's house fell.

"I could see rocks and homes tumbling down the mountains," said Ilahi, who was driving to his village of Garlat when the quake struck. "When I reached my village, there was nothing left of my home."

India's government offered condolences and assistance to Pakistan, a longtime rival with which it has been pursuing peace efforts after fighting three wars since independence from British rule in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.

"While parts of India have also suffered from this unexpected natural disaster, we are prepared to extend any assistance with rescue and relief which you may deem appropriate," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a message to Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

India reported at least 340 people killed injured when the quake collapsed 2,700 houses and other buildings in Jammu-Kashmir state. Most of the deaths occurred in the border towns of Uri, Tangdar and Punch and in the city of Srinagar, said B.B. Vyas, the state's divisional commissioner.

Quake Kills More Than 18,000 in South Asia - Yahoo! News

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