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Death toll reaches 311 in quake-hit Pakistani, Afghan areas

October 28 2015, 10:22

Image 0Residents in a northwestern Pakistani town that was among the worst-affected by this week's massive earthquake were seeking government help Wednesday to rebuild their damaged homes, after spending the second straight night with relatives.

Authorities said Monday's quake damaged 8,453 homes and 113 schools in Pakistan's impoverished northwest.

Rescuers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are struggling to reach regions stricken by the magnitude-7.5 quake, which was centered in Afghanistan's sparsely populated Badakhshan province that borders Pakistan, Tajikistan and China. The quake left at least 258 people dead in Pakistan, 115 in Afghanistan and three on the Indian side of the disputed region of Kashmir.

Casualty figures are likely to leap once relief workers return from remote villages that can be accessed only by foot or donkey.

The earthquake, with its epicenter close to the Badakhshan district of Jarm, damaged many of the few existing roads, officials said. Dropping aid by air will be the only way to reach many of the needy, but those operations are not likely to start for many days, until survey teams on foot return and report on the damage.

Monday's quake shook buildings in the capital, Islamabad, and cities elsewhere in Pakistan and Afghanistan for up to 45 seconds in the early afternoon, creating cracks in walls and causing blackouts.

The earthquake destroyed more than 7,600 homes across Afghanistan and injured 558 people, according to a statement from President Ashraf Ghani's office after he had met with disaster management officials. He ordered the military to make assets available for the relief effort.

Badakhshan Gov. Shah Waliullah Adeeb said more than 1,500 houses there were either destroyed or partially destroyed. The province's casualty figures of 11 dead and 25 injured "will rise by the end of the day, once the survey teams get to the remote areas and villages," Adeeb said.

Afghan authorities said they were scrambling to access the hardest-hit areas near the epicenter, located 73 kilometers (45 miles) south of Fayzabad, the capital of Badakhshan province.

Badakhshan is one of the poorest areas of Afghanistan and frequently hit by floods, snowstorms and mudslides. Its valleys and mountains make access to many areas by road almost impossible at the best of times. It often has big earthquakes, but casualty figures are usually low because it is so sparsely populated, with fewer than 1 million people.

The Taliban issued a statement calling on all Afghans "not to hold back in providing shelter, food and medical supplies" to earthquake victims and said its fighters would also lend a hand.

The insurgents, fighting to overthrow the Kabul government for 14 years, have built a presence in northern provinces this year, notably in Badakhshan. Some districts, including Jarm, have been seized briefly by Taliban gunmen. Officials have said it is part of their strategy to take control of strategically insignificant areas to force the Afghan government to spread its military resources ever-thinner in the fight to defeat the insurgency.

Helicopters and military planes were transporting relief supplies and military engineers were working on restoring communication lines disrupted by landslides, said Lt. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa, the army spokesman.

A magnitude-7.6 quake hit Pakistan on Oct. 8, 2005, killing more than 80,000 people and leaving more than 3 million homeless, most of them in the northwest of the country and in the divided region of Kashmir.

That quake was much shallower — 10 kilometers (6 miles) below the surface of the earth, compared to the depth of 213 kilometers (130 miles) on Monday — and thus caused greater damage, said Mohammad Hanif, an official at the Meteorological Department.

Source: yahoonews.com

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