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Rediff.com  » News » Pak: Authorities call off rescue work

Pak: Authorities call off rescue work

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Last updated on: October 15, 2005 05:32 IST

Hopes of finding survivors of the weekend killer earthquake receded on Friday with the Pakistan Army and international agencies virtually calling off rescue efforts amid fears that the death toll in Pakistan occupied Kashmir alone may surpass 60,000.

"Search and rescue has ended. There can always be miracles, but the hopes of finding survivors has receded," United Nation's Under-Secretary General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland told reporters in Islamabad after his two-day visit to the devastated areas, setting at rest confusion created over conflicting statements from Pakistan Army officials.

"While there were always chances of relief workers finding survivors, now the focus has shifted to emergency relief to save people waiting for help," Egeland said.

In his appeal, Egeland urged the international community to give more assistance to Pakistan to help those affected by the quake.

"We need more money from more nations," he said and called for immediate facilitation of international assistance and custom free relief goods from the outside world.

He said that 135 relief aircrafts have landed today while hundreds would come in the next few days. "Pakistan and the world community should work together and with coordination," Egeland stressed, adding they will have to organise relief efforts.

"We must know about those who are wounded in the small villages and the biggest problem is winter and snow," he said adding another 40 to 50 helicopters from various countries would join to the existing fleet of about 70 choppers.

He said the UN has obtained commitment to the tune of $ 225 million from the international community aimed at life-saving and early recovery activities for six-month emergency.

"Based on reports from the nine cluster groups, the total amount of money needed in this initial appeal is $ 271,776,000 for actions up to six months."

US officials in Islamabad said helicopters, aircraft and troops, would stay to help Pakistan respond to the disaster for as long as they are wanted.

Pakistani police also opened a criminal investigation into the collapse of the 19-storey apartment block that killed at least 40 residents during the earthquake.

In Washington, United States President George W Bush on Friday signed a message of condolence for victims of the massive earthquake in Pakistan and promised to help the country "any way" he can.

Meanwhile, president of the ruling Muslim Congress of PoK, Ateeq Ahmed, in an interview to Voice of America, said that more than 10,000 bodies were still buried under the rubble in the affected areas.

Official death toll in PoK was put around 18,000 so far with those injured in the region of around 43,000.

There are still some inaccessible areas in the state, which if not approached timely may take the death toll higher, he said.

Meanwhile, a mother-daughter duo from Jammu and Kashmir, who was visiting PoK when the killer quake struck, managed to reach Rawalpindi on Friday from Muzaffarabad by road with the help of relatives after spending some harrowing days in the worst-hit area.

Efforts were on to locate 44 other Indian nationals.

According to the Indian High Commission estimates, 54 people from Jammu and Kashmir, who travelled to Muzaffarabad on different dates by the Kashmir bus, were caught up in the earthquake.

The World Health Organisation, has already described the destruction caused by the 7.6 Richter scale earthquake, which devastated PoK and parts of North West Frontier Province as a bigger catastrophe than the 2004 tsunami in terms of numbers of people displaced and the extent of destruction to infrastructure.

Hussein A Gezairy, WHO's regional director, told reporters in Islamabad that the quake had rendered 2.5 million people homeless against 1.5 million in the tsunami. He estimated the scale of devastation suffered in Pakistan was over $10 billion.

Pakistan Army, meanwhile, said it had obtained satellite imagery of remote areas of the PoK, which had been affected and dispatched helicopters with supplies.

According to the latest update from the NWFP, 12,496 people have been killed and 20,876 injured due to the quake.

International aid is pouring into Islamabad with over 100 flights from various countries, including India, unloading hundreds of tonnes of relief materials, especially blankets, tents and food items for the victims.

King Abdullah of Jordan arrived in Islamabad on Friday to express sympathy with Pakistan over the devastation caused by the quake.

He met President Pervez Musharraf and discussed the relief measures, besides issues of mutual interest.

Complete Coverage: Terror from the earth

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