South Asian death toll up to 40,000

Up to 40,000 people are feared to have died in the South Asia earthquake which rocked Pakistan, India and Afghanistan over the weekend.

The news comes as rescue teams continue to work around the clock to find survivors of the devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake.

Rescue teams and ordinary citizens are using cranes and earth-moving equipment or just their bare hands in desperate searches for survivors, some complaining bitterly about the lack of assistance from badly stretched central authorities.

Many of the dead are in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The scale of the disaster has prompted a huge relief operation to help the thousands injured and stranded by the quake.

Appeals to fund efforts have already been launched by the British Red Cross, Oxfam, Unicef, Islamic Relief and Muslim Aid, with Oxfam reporting around Ј50,000 generated within the first hour alone.

President Pervez Musharraf said the quake was the country's worst on record and appealed to the international community and Pakistanis living in the UK and elsewhere to come forward and help their countrymen.

The earthquake, the biggest in Pakistan in memory, was centred in the mountains of Pakistani Kashmir, near the Indian border, and violently jolted large parts of northern Pakistan, as well as parts of neighbouring Afghanistan and India.

About 19,400 people were killed and more than 42,000 hurt in Pakistan, said Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, with the divided Himalayan territory of Kashmir and its capital Muzaffarabad worst hit.

In Muzaffarabad, most houses, government buildings and shops had collapsed and frightened residents spent a chilly night camped in fields, parks, graveyards and cars, according to the Channel4.

Another 558 people died in the Indian side of Kashmir, where many mud and stone houses were buried by landslides.

Amongst countless tragic sights, perhaps most pitiful was that of hundreds of parents using picks, shovels and their bare hands in a desperate attempt to reach 850 children trapped in the rubble of two schools in Northwest Frontier Province.

The frightened voices of trapped children and the anguished wails of parents accompanied the frantic work in the Balakot valley in the mountains of the province bordering Afghanistan.

Photo by CNN.


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