Af-Pak quake toll rises past 350
Rescuers struggled to form a clear picture of the damage caused by the massive earthquake in northern Afghanistan and Pakistan as the death toll rose past 350. In Pakistan, number of deaths rose past 275 amid continuing casualty reports from far flung parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and tribal Fata areas. In Afghanistan, officials have confirmed that at least 82 persons died and 300 others were injured following the deadly 7.7 magnitude earthquake that hit the country with Hindu Kush as epicentre.
Khyber Pakhtunkhawa which bore the brunt of the quake in Pakistan counted over 250 dead while in Punjab cities more than two dozen deaths were reported in various cities, mainly because of collapse of dilapidated houses.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said at least 1,632 were injured across Pakistan. The crisis cell set up in PM House, Islamabad, said it has received reports of 229 deaths and hundreds wounded while more casualties are expected in extreme north and FATA.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif flew to Shangle in KP which suffered over 46 dead and extensive damage to property. He assured a gathering of affected people that the government would build new houses for them.
Sharif also promised to announce a package of compensation for the affected families in consultation with KP Chief Minister Parvez Khattak.
With large mountainous areas of Afghanistan hit and icy weather closing in, the unstable security situation has posed a major challenge to international aid groups that have been repeatedly targeted by insurgents.
The toll could climb as road and communications links are restored to isolated villages and as winter sets in across the rugged Hindu Kush mountains where the earthquake struck, the plight of thousands left homeless is becoming more serious.
"We have insufficient food and other aid," said Abdul Habib Sayed Khil, chief of police in Kunar, one of the worst-hit provinces, where 42 people were confirmed dead. "It has been raining for four days and the weather is very cold." The worst impact was reported in Faizabad, capital of Badakhshan province but there was also significant damage in the provinces of Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman, Takhar, Baghlan and Nangarhar.
In Kabul, the capital, NATO officials said they were helping Afghan security forces plan relief operations but aid groups were still assessing how to reach the areas and how to operate once they were there given the danger to their teams.
The earthquake struck almost exactly six months after Nepal suffered its worst quake on record, on April 25. Including the toll from a major aftershock in May, 9,000 people lost their lives there and 900,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.