The stench of death hung heavy in the air along the ravaged roads leading to the mountain villages of PoK and adjoining areas, where an eerie silence indicates presence of a very few living souls.
Hope is fast giving way to despondency as the pace of death is overtaking that of rescue in the regions where Saturday's killer temblor wiped out thousands of lives and rendered lakhs homeless.
"The stench of rotting bodies is unbearable," Mohammad Qureshi of Bagh village in PoK was quoted as saying by the local media. For survivors, anger reigned supreme at not getting enough aid-- blankets, food and tents-- to battle the elements in view of chilly winter fast settling in the mountain towns.
As news of loot and ransack of essential items trickled in from Muzaffarabad, which bore the brunt of the quake, victims in the surrounding hill regions expressed frustration at not being able to get a share of the relief material earmarked for them.
"It is bad enough that our homes are razed, but the shortage of food and water in these parts are killing us slowly," Iqbal Hussain of Rawlakot said. The local media reported the incidents of looting and lawlessness in certain areas were severely hampering relief operations.
The gargantuan task now facing the administration is the clearing of the dead, officials said, adding that heaving heavy machinery up the mountain tracks to the cut-off villages is a greater challenge than distribution of supplies.
However, amidst the numerous glum faces milling on the streets are also some gladdened by a sudden rescue by army personnel. A British rescue team saved a septuagenarian man trapped under the debris of a building in Muzaffarabad for the last five days, bringing cheer to the devastated city.
Dogs, the last resort of desperate relatives to trace any signs of the living from under chunks of concrete and twisted steel, did their parts by sniffing through the ruins for survivors.
At army hospitals the pain, both psychological and physical was palpable as harassed doctors and paramedics rushed from patient to patient, some of whom have lost more than an arm or a leg in the devastating quake.
As officials struggled to restore power lines and clear the roads, it will be a while before they reached the inhospitable terrain of interior mountain villages, some of them still totally cut-off from the make-shift army relief camps.