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Quake Rescue Anxiety Grows

Pakistan seeks large helicopters to move equipment into remote areas. The death toll nears 20,000, and many remain trapped.

October 10, 2005|Mubashir Zaidi, Paul Watson and Shankhadeep Choudhury | Special to The Times

"I expressed our nation's deepest condolences," Bush said of his conversation with the Pakistani president. "And I told him that we want to help in any way we can. To that end, we've already started to send cash money and other equipment and goods that is going to be needed to help the people in Pakistan."

The statements came after Musharraf's plea for international help, which singled out the U.S. and Britain as having transport helicopters big enough to lift heavy equipment into vast, mountainous areas cut off by the quake.

"We can only go by roads, and roads also don't reach to every corner, so therefore it's only helicopter access that we have," the Pakistan president said during an interview with reporters in Rawalpindi, a suburb of the capital. "Things are not as simple as one would see in the West."

"We have enough manpower, but we need financial support so that we may utilize it in a required way to cope with the tragedy," the Pakistani leader said.

Musharraf, an army general who seized power in a 1999 coup, ordered the armed forces to lead the rescue and relief effort just hours after the earthquake.

On Sunday, a second British rescue team, with 70 members and sniffer dogs, arrived to help Pakistanis search for victims. The first British team, which arrived Saturday, joined rescue efforts at the ruins of a nine-story high-rise apartment building.

At least two survivors, a woman and a child, were brought out of the rubble alive Sunday, after crews worked through the night with sledgehammers, shovels and cranes. As many as 50 people, including foreign nationals, are believed to be buried under concrete slabs.

The disputed territory of Kashmir, over which India and Pakistan both claim sovereignty, was one of the regions hardest hit by the temblor. The epicenter was near Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, where scores of buildings were destroyed and hundreds of people were killed.

Across the Line of Control that divides Kashmir, the quake was so powerful in the Indian-controlled zone that there was a roar and Bashir Hussain Shah thought his village, about 120 miles south of Srinagar, had come under artillery fire from Pakistani troops. Shah's three-story house collapsed and his 13-year-old son Tahir was missing somewhere on the path he took through a mountain valley on his way to his 7th grade class.

Relatives found the teen 2 1/2 hours later, with a fractured leg, shattered jaw and smashed teeth, along with other injuries. He was lying unconscious beneath a pile of rocks.

Relatives made a makeshift stretcher out of sacks and carried him to an Indian army relief camp, where the family was evacuated by helicopter and truck to Srinagar, summer capital of Indian-held Kashmir.

In Baramulla, about 25 miles north of Srinagar, doctors said many of some 340 earthquake victims had only minor physical injuries but were deeply traumatized by the catastrophe.

They complained of chest pains, palpitations and breathlessness, and some were unable to move, said Dr. Sayed Massoud, assistant surgeon at the district hospital.

There were at least 10 strong aftershocks in the region Sunday. Altaf Hussain Shah, who has been an ambulance driver in the Kashmir war zone for 15 years, said he had never seen anything like the emotional stress the quake had caused.

"The relatives who bring injured patients in are themselves shellshocked. They're completely dazed," Shah said.


Times staff writer Watson reported from New Delhi, special correspondents Zaidi from Balakot and Choudhury from Srinagar and Baramulla. Staff writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington and special correspondent Zulfiqar Ali in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.


How to help

These are some of the aid agencies accepting contributions for assistance

to those affected by the earthquake in South Asia.

American Red Cross

International Response Fund

P.O. Box 37243

Washington, DC 20013

(800) HELP-NOW


Relief International

1575 Westwood Boulevard

Suite 200

Los Angeles, CA 90024

(310) 478-1200, (800) 573-3332


Oxfam America

P.O. Box 1211

Albert Lea, MN 56007-1211

(800) 77-OXFAM


Save the Children

54 Wilton Road

Westport, CT 06880



In addition, the Pakistani Consulate has set up a bank account for donations for disaster relief. The consulate's telephone numbers are (310) 441-5145 and (310) 446-6695

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