Rescuers Search Rubble For Survivors Of Massive South Asia Quake

October 27, 2015 -Rescuers are picking their way through rugged terrain and pockets of Taliban insurgency in the search for survivors after a massive quake hit Pakistan and Afghanistan, killing at least 306 people.

The toll was expected to rise as search teams reach remote areas that were cut off by the powerful magnitude 7.5 quake, which triggered landslides and stampedes as it toppled buildings and severed communication lines.

Pakistan’s military has been mobilised and India, whose relationship with Islamabad is often prickly, said it stood ready to help.

In the most horrifying episode to emerge so far from the quake, 12 young Afghan girls were crushed to death in a stampede as they tried to flee their shaking school building.

The bulk of the casualties were reported from Pakistan, where 214 people were killed and more than 1,800 injured, disaster management authorities said.

“Many houses and buildings have collapsed in the city,” said Arbab Muhammad Asim, district mayor for the north-western city of Peshawar.

Many people were trapped under piles of rubble, with officials warning that the toll was set to rise.

The death toll could climb in coming days because communications were down in much of the rugged Hindu Kush mountain range where the quake was centred.

“The building was swinging like a pendulum, it felt as if the heavens would fall,” Peshawar shop owner Tufail Ahmed said.

Funerals have begun to be held for the dead, in line with Muslim custom.

Afghan officials said at least 63 people were confirmed dead and hundreds more injured, with casualties reported from around half a dozen of the country’s 34 provinces.

The government has implored aid agencies for assistance. But large swathes of Badakhshan, the remote province where the epicentre is located, and other areas are effectively controlled by the Taliban, posing a huge challenge to any official aid efforts.

The Taliban has promised to allow aid organisations access, saying militants in quake-affected areas have been ordered to provide “complete help”.

“The Islamic Emirate [The Taliban] calls on charitable organisations to not hold back in providing shelter, food and medical supplies to the victims of this earthquake,” the group said on its website.

“It similarly orders its Mujahedeen in the affected areas to lend their complete help to the victims and facilitate those giving charity to the needy.”

Afghanistan’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said an initial assessment shows around 4,000 houses have been damaged by the quake.

“Today’s earthquake was the strongest one felt in the recent decades,” he said.

“Initial reports show a big loss of life and huge financial losses in Badakhshan, Takhar, Nangarhar, Kunar and other regions.

“Exact numbers are not known because phone lines are down and communication has been cut off in many areas.”

 

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