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Earthquake Survivors Wait for Help


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

Hundreds of thousands of people, some of them hungry, some of them ill, are spending a third night in the open. They're waiting for aid to arrive in the aftermath of this weekend's massive earthquake in South Asia. Tens of thousands of people were killed and double that number injured. Some relief is making it into the remote areas, where the earthquake caused some of the greatest damage. We'll hear from an aid worker who's been to one of the hardest-hit cities shortly. But we start with NPR's Philip Reeves, who is in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

And, Philip, as time passes, the scope of this disaster is becoming clearer. What's the latest?

PHILIP REEVES reporting:

Well, we're still at the stage, even now after all these hours since the earthquake, of getting a sense of the dimensions of the enormity of this thing. I heard an account today about one person who's been walking for two days just to reach the village in which his family lives, a village, which it's believed, was pretty much demolished by a landslide. Many others are reportedly wiped out by landslides in this very remote area that's been hit by this earthquake.

Pakistan, of course, bore the brunt of it, but the death toll in the Indian-controlled Kashmir is also rising to over 850 reportedly. Aid agencies are talking about more than 120,000 people, many of them children, in urgent need of shelter and up to four million people who could be left homeless in conditions which, of course, in the--as the autumn sets in in the mountains and the foothills of the Himalayas are going to be cold and difficult.

There's a report also from The Associated Press that Pakistani troops--and this report, by the way, quotes a Pakistani television station and a military official--but that it says that Pakistani troops, aided by French experts, rescued 40 children and retrieved 60 bodies from a school that collapsed in Balakot, which is one of the most badly affected towns.

SIEGEL: Now there have been some reports as well of looting. What can you tell us about that, if anything?

REEVES: It appears that looting has begun to develop into an issue. People desperate for food and medicine and for fuel have been raiding reportedly deserted homes and also gas stations and also shops. There's some evidence that there's frustration building up over the relief effort. Pakistan's president, Pervaiz Musharraf, says that Pakistan's doing all it can, but it is desperately short of helicopters, and this disaster is of enormous proportions. There's a report tonight that the police fired shots into the air in Muzaffarabad, which is the regional capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, and that there have been clashes between shopkeepers and looters.

SIEGEL: Now there has been quite a bit of attention to the collapse of a 10-story apartment building in Islamabad. What's the latest on that situation?

REEVES: Well, of course, that image was the first image from this disaster that everybody saw--Wasn't it?--that great pile of rubble that developed after the collapse of this apparently modern apartment building, 10 stories high, in the capital of Pakistan. There's been a huge operation going on there in parallel to the efforts that are being made to get out into the hills and save people in these devastated and very remote communities. And it's reported tonight that a woman and a child who were trapped for more than 60 hours in the rubble were brought out alive today. And there were, of course, cheers from the rescuers, who have been working around the clock since the earthquake struck to try to find people in that dreadful mess, in that awful situation.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Philip Reeves talking to us about the situation in Pakistan from the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

Philip, thank you.

REEVES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.