High Toll Feared as Quake Strikes South Asia
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.
Casualties are mounting from a powerful earthquake that struck portions of India and Pakistan early today. The worst-hit areas are in the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan. The quake set off landslides that buried houses and blocked roads in rural areas. It also flattened a 10-story apartment building in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital some 60 miles from the quake's center. With us on the line is NPR's Philip Reeves in New Delhi.
PHILIP REEVES reporting:
ELLIOTT: Can you give us the latest estimates of deaths and injuries.
REEVES: Well, it appears that over 1,000 people have been killed, and among those who've been killed, it's reported, are hundreds of students at a girls school in the Mansehra district of Pakistan, but we're getting differing signals here as to the scale of the death toll overall. One Pakistani military spokesman's been saying that it could run into the thousands, but the interior minister and the prime minister earlier today were talking about a figure around the 1,000 mark. That is, of course, just for the Pakistani side of this disaster. Hundreds have also been killed in the Indian-controlled area of Kashmir.
ELLIOTT: Is there a sense that help is getting to some of the people affected by this earthquake?
REEVES: Well, we know that the Indian and the Pakistani army and the air force have been mobilized. They say they've been flying in tents and medical teams. They've sent out helicopters, but it's a very remote area in parts. There are teams of doctors and Red Cross volunteers reportedly traveling by road to the area, in some cases, on foot to the more remote areas in the mountains to try to provide emergency medical care, but this task is being hampered by very large landslides. There are reports that some landslides have actually destroyed entire villages. And, of course, communications problems are a nightmare, too.
And in Islamabad, in the Pakistani capital, there's a separate operation which the Pakistani authorities are involved in and that centers on an apartment block that was brought down like a stack of cards, 10 stories high and reportedly scores of people could be buried inside the pile of wreckage there. Now this is being complicated not only by aftershocks that are continuing in the area but also, I'm hearing, by rain and by lightning that's now sweeping through Islamabad. So this is a very, very unpleasant situation.
ELLIOTT: Are the governments at all working together in the relief efforts because the relations are somewhat tense?
REEVES: They are tense, but they have been improving in recent months. India has reportedly offered assistance, and that move does have some relevance in the context of the peacemaking moves that have been ongoing between the two countries in their efforts to try to find some sort of reconciliation. Those moves are still preliminary in many ways, but nonetheless, they have been happening. And it remains to be seen and a lot of eyes will be on this issue as to whether this disaster pushes them closer together or further apart.
ELLIOTT: Thanks so much, NPR's Philip Reeves in New Delhi.
REEVES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.