Pakistan on Wednesday dramatically increased the official death toll from the devastating earthquake that hit the north of the country last month to 73,276 and said it could rise further. The official death toll jumped from a 57,000 total given by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to the nation's parliament yesterday.
Federal Relief Commissioner Major-General Farooq Ahmed Khan said the sharp rise from a figure of 57,600 given a day earlier could be related to concerted efforts to clear debris since the Oct. 8 disaster.
Another 1,300 have been confirmed dead in Indian Kashmir. Pakistani Kashmir and adjoining North West Frontier Province bore the brunt of the 7.6 magnitude quake, Reuters reports.
It was the strongest to hit South Asia in 100 years and left more than three million people in need of emergency shelter with a bitter Himalayan winter approaching.
Khan said the government had received around $2 billion in pledges for the massive task of reconstruction, still way short of its cost estimate of more than $5 billion.
Pakistan hope to raise more at a Nov. 19. donors' conference to be attended by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The United Nations, heading a massive international relief effort, says donors have failed to provide sufficient funds for emergency aid work and warns that as many people who died in the quake could perish in the winter unless help reaches them fast.
Jakob Kellenberger, president of International Committee of the Red Cross, visited its emergency hospital in Muzaffarabad, the badly damaged capital of Pakistan Kashmir, and spoke of a race against the approaching winter.
Landslides, caused by rain and more than 1,000 aftershocks, continue to block the few roads carved into a mountainous area of 25,000 square kilometers (10,000 square miles) in Pakistani Kashmir and the North West Frontier province affected by the quake. Pakistan says about 3.3 million people were affected by the quake. North Pakistan has more mountains higher than 8,000 meters than any region on earth.
He said the ICRC was assisting 10,000 people a day and hoped to cover the needs of 150,000 by the second half of November.
"The weather is really deteriorating and it's become much more difficult," he told reporters. "The good days are now really being used. We used the good weather as much as we can to reach places which cannot reach by road." A.M.