Pakistani soldiers and French experts rescue 40 children trapped in quake rubble

Pakistani troops aided by French experts on Monday rescued 40 children and retrieved 60 bodies from the rubble of a school that collapsed in the massive earthquake, a Pakistani television station and a military official said.

Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, the army's chief spokesman, said he could not immediately confirm the report. The French Defense Ministry spokesman's office in Paris said it had no information on any rescue at the school in Balakot, pointing out that it was very difficult to get information from Pakistan.

The children were among an estimated 370 students who were trapped in the rubble of Shaheen Foundation School in Balakot, a scenic town in northwestern Pakistan that was badly hit by the 7.6- magnitude quake.

Pakistan's private Geo television said 40 children were rescued. It cited one of its reporters, who was at the scene.

"According to our information, French experts and our soldiers have saved 40 students, and pulled out 60 bodies," a military official said by telephone from Balakot. The official, who didn't want to be named because he is not authorized to speak to media, said he received the information from an army major involved in the rescue.

A villager, Sajid Awan, said by telephone that he had seen six children who were rescued at the site. He said the rescue operation was continuing when he left the area.

Residents had been trying in vain to remove the debris with their bare hands. On Monday, several French experts and hundreds of Pakistani soldiers arrived in Balakot, AP reported.

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