Quake survivors complain over delay in aid

THE death toll in India passed 600 last night after rescue workers and soldiers pulled out 90 more bodies in the frontier Tangdar region, 65 miles north of Srinagar, the summer capital of India’s Jammu-Kashmir state.

Most of the deaths were in the border towns of Uri, Tangdar and Punch and Srinagar, where the quake collapsed houses and buildings.

On the Indian side of Kashmir, hundreds of mud-and-stone homes were destroyed or buried under heaps of mud.

A police official in the area, Ashoor Wani, said the death toll would probably rise because many villages had been cut off by landslides.

Angry villagers blocked roads in earthquake-ravaged regions of Indian-controlled Kashmir yesterday, complaining that the government was too slow in getting rescue and aid efforts to them.

Hundreds were known dead from the 7.7-magnitude earthquake that rocked South Asia on Saturday and rescue workers and soldiers were still pulling bodies from wreckage in Tangdar.

While the worst of the quake’s devastation came in neighbouring Pakistan, damage was severe in parts of Jammu-Kashmir.

Collapsed houses and shops line the streets in towns and villages nestled in Tangdar’s deep valleys as well as in Uri, Punch and Srinagar. Hundreds were injured.

Most people spent the night in the open, lighting fires with wood pulled from fallen houses to keep warm in near-freezing temperatures.

Sonia Gandhi, head of India’s governing political alliance, visited Uri yesterday and talked with some of the injured in hospitals.

“We have come here to share your grief,” she said.

Ms Gandhi told reporters the immediate aim was to provide food and shelter, especially tents and blankets.

“The requirement is 40,000 blankets and tents so that those who have lost their houses get a shelter over their heads,” she said.

The Indian army has flown in planeloads of medicine, food and drinking water to the worst-hit Baramulla district, said Jammu-Kashmir state’s chief secretary, Vijay Bakaya. More than 1,000 tents were being distributed in remote villages flattened by the quake.

However, many people said they had received no help.

A crowd of some 200 people blocked the main road between Baramulla and Uri for about 45 minutes, demanding that journalists and soldiers with relief supplies go to their mountainside villages, which they said were being ignored.

“Everything is destroyed. The ground shook and took everything down,” said Syad Hassan, pointing toward the peaks surrounding the valley road. The quake killed at least 65 people in his home village of Namala and three neighbouring hamlets, he said, but no aid had been provided to them. “All the government people, the press people, they are just driving past,” he said.

Kashmir’s finance minister, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, said the government was doing its best.

“The quake caused a lot of damage to infrastructure and communication. And the weather also became bad, which hampered relief temporarily,” he said of heavy overnight rains.

He said the government had cancelled vacations of officials to bolster relief efforts. Mud, debris and knee-high slush from landslides blocked roads, cutting off many remote villages.

A century of natural disasters

December 28, 1908 - A magnitude-7.2 earthquake kills 123,000 people in the Messina-Reggio Calabria area of eastern Sicily and southernmost Italy.

December 16, 1920 - Gansu, China, is hit with an earthquake reaching magnitude 8.6. 200,000 die.

September 1, 1923 - An earthquake of 8.3 magnitude in Japan destroys one-third of Tokyo and most of Yokohama. 140,000 are killed.

May 22, 1927 - A 7.9 magnitude earthquake hits near Xining, China, killing 200,000.

December 25, 1932 - Around 70,000 people are killed after an earthquake reaching 7.6 magnitude hits the Gansu region in China.

May 30, 1935 - 7.5 quake strikes Quetta, Pakistan, killing more than 30,000 people.

December 27, 1939 - 7.9 quake kills more than 32,000 in the Erzincan province in eastern Turkey.

October 5, 1948 - 7.3 magnitude quake in Turkmenistan kills more than 110,000.

August 15, 1950 - Up to 30,000 killed in an earthquake of 8.6 magnitude in Assam, India.

May 31, 1970 - An earthquake of 7.9 in Peru leaves more than 60,000 dead.

November 13, 1970 - A cyclone in the Ganges Delta of Bangladesh kills at least 300,000 people.

February 4, 1976 - A series of earthquakes reaching a magnitude of 7.5 in Guatemala kills 23,000.

July 28, 1976 - The worst earthquake to hit China in 20th century. Between 7.8 and 8.2 magnitude leaves 240,000 dead in Tangshan.

September 16, 1978 - An earthquake of 7.7 magnitude in Tabas, Iran, kills 25,000.

November 14-16, 1985 - Volcanic eruption of Nevada del Ruiz near Bogota, Colombia, kills approximately 25,000 people.

December 7, 1988 - A 6.9-magnitude earthquake in Armenia kills 25,000.

June 21, 1990 - A 7.7 magnitude quake in Iran kills at least 50,000 people.

September 30, 1993 - 10,000 killed from earthquake of 6.0 magnitude in Maharashtra in India.

August 17, 1999 - 17,000 are killed as a magnitude-7.4 quake hits western Turkey.

December 26, 2003 - More than 26,000 die after a 6.5-magnitude quake strikes the city of Bam in Iran.

December 26, 2004 - A 9.0 earthquake off the western coast of Indonesia’s Sumatra island launches tsunami waves that kill more than 117,000 in Asia and Africa.

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