Pakistan said over 18,000 people were confirmed dead in an earthquake it described as the biggest disaster in its history, as officials warned the toll would rise dramatically.
Military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said over 41,000 people were injured and that the number of dead from Saturday's 7.6 magnitude quake would continue to grow.
A senior official in the Pakistani-controlled sector of Kashmir, where the epicenter of the quake was located, said the local government estimated over 30,000 people had been killed in their region alone.
'There are cities, there are towns which have been completely destroyed. Muzaffarabad is devastated,' Minister for Works and Communication Tariq Farooq told AFP, referring to the regional capital.
General Sultan said military helicopters were leading rescue efforts in the worst affected zones, the rugged terrain of the North West Frontier Province and in Himalayan Kashmir.
Officials said surgeons were being despatched to Kashmir along with nine helicopter loads of emergency aid. They said bad weather and the destruction of infrastructure was severely affecting relief efforts.
The quake also killed at least 320 people and injured 700 in the Indian zone of Kashmir, said the state's chief secretary Vijay Bakaya, warning the toll would rise.
The US Geological Survey and the Pakistan Meteorological Department said the quake measured 7.6 on the Richter scale while the Japanese Meteorological Agency put it at 7.8.
Kashmir is well known to be a high-risk area for earthquakes as it lies on the collision area of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates which created the Himalayas 50 mln years ago, the Forbes reports.
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