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J&K quake toll is 800, rescuers struggle to reach remote areas

By M I Jahangir and A M Sofi in Srinagar
Last updated on: October 10, 2005 17:33 IST
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Stepping up rescue and relief efforts, troops joined by local people on Sunday struggled to access remote villages and sifted through a rubble of flattened houses pulling out more bodies in quake-hit Kashmir valley as the death count in the killer temblor reached 800.

The picture of more death and devastation unfolded as army and air force personnel accessed areas hitherto untouched by rescue efforts even fresh tremors jolted parts of Jammu and Kashmir, keeping up the panic among residents.

Braving rains, panic-stricken victims spent overnight under the open sky complaining of poor response from the administration in providing relief.

Complete Coverage: Terror from the earth

IAF pilots who flew over Karnah in Keran sector in Kupwara district on the Line of Control for the first time on Sunday morning reported heavy devastation.

State government and army officials do not rule out the toll climbing further as several villages were yet to be reached by rescuers.

"The toll is expected to rise as there is no news from four villages in Teetwal area," a state government official said adding 3,000 houses had been razed in Tangdhar alone.

Using spades and bare hands, thousands of security personnel looked for survivors and dug out the dead in worst-hit Uri and Tangdhar areas and army and IAF helicopters ferried the injured to hospitals in Srinagar. The army has also set up makeshift hospitals at a number of places.

Efforts are on to open up the arterial routes leading to the villages which have been cut off from the rest of state due to landslides, chief secretary Vijay Bakaya told PTI in Srinagar.

He said the death toll across the state so far has touched 800 even as a pile of bodies was recovered from the debris of houses in Tangdhar and Uri areas.

Nearly 40 Border Road Organization personnel were reported to have been buried by a massive landslide on Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway between Uri and Aman Setu a porton of which also caved in.

Bakaya said 325 deaths were recorded in Baramulla district with most of them in Uri sector while six deaths were reported in Srinagar district.

Eighteen deaths were recorded in Poonch and other areas of Jammu region along the LoC.

Army choppers undertook numerous sorties ferrying medicines and relief materials to remote areas and airlifted 100 injured people by this evening to the base hospital, Defence Spokesman Col H Joneja said.

IAF, besides rushing planeloads of medicines and relief equipment, also airdropped 5,000 food packets in areas which were not accessible by road or foot to the relief providing agencies.

Residents in many quake-hit areas complained of tardy pace of relief operations but officials said reaching many remote areas had been delayed due to landslides cutting off road links.

Complete Coverage: Terror from the earth

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M I Jahangir and A M Sofi in Srinagar
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