Villagers angry over slow rescue efforts in Indian Kashmir, where 465 are dead

Angry villagers briefly blocked roads Sunday in earthquake-ravaged regions of Indian-controlled Kashmir, protesting the slow pace of rescue and aid efforts in reaching their destroyed homes.

The death toll from Saturday's 7.6 magnitude earthquake rose to 465 in India after rescue workers and soldiers pulled out 90 more bodies in the frontier Tangdar region, 105 kilometers (65 miles) north of Srinagar, the summer capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state. The brunt of the quake was faced by Pakistan, where more than 19,000 people were killed.

In India, collapsed homes and shops lined the streets of towns and villages nestled in Tangdar's deep valleys. The Indian army has flown in planeloads of medicines, food and drinking water to the worst-hit Baramulla district, said Jammu-Kashmir state's Chief Secretary Vijay Bakaya . More than 1,000 tents were being distributed in remote villages flattened by the quake.

Soldiers and volunteers used bulldozers and bare hands Sunday to pull survivors and bodies from the rubble of houses and buildings. However, many people complained that they had received no help from government agencies and the military.

Some 200 angry residents blocked the main road between Baramulla and the border town of Uri for about 45 minutes Sunday, demanding that soldiers with aid and journalists go to their mountainside villages, which they said were being ignored. The quake killed at least 65 people in his home village, Namala, and three neigboring villages, he said, but no aid had been provided to them.

Khan watched helplessly as his wife lay writhing in pain on a cot nearby, her ribs broken after their house collapsed. Officials blamed the slow response on difficult conditions in the area.

Heavy rains overnight hampered rescuers and relief distribution, said B.B. Vyas, divisional commissioner of Jammu-Kashmir. Mud, debris and knee-high slush from landslides blocked roads, cutting off many remote villages.

Most people in Jammu-Kashmir spent the night in the open, lighting fires with wood pulled out from fallen houses to keep warm in the near freezing temperatures.

At least two aftershocks early Sunday sent people scurrying into the streets in Srinagar. Most of India's deaths occurred in the border towns of Uri, Tangdar and Punch, and in Srinagar city. Officials in India feared their country's toll of 450 would rise as severed telephone lines are restored and more reports come in from isolated villages. Some 900 people were injured.

Among the dead were 39 soldiers from the army and paramilitary forces who perished in landslides along the Line of Control that separates the Indian and Pakistani portions of Kashmir, said Col. H. Juneja, an army spokesman. Telephone, water and electricity supplies were disrupted across much of the state, AP reports.


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