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10.08.2005

7.6 quake hits Kashmir region

Hundreds die in South Asia quake



Pakistan says more than 1,000 people may have died in a powerful quake that also hit north India and Afghanistan.

The 7.6-magnitude quake with the epicentre 80km (50 miles) north-east of Islamabad wiped out several villages.

At least 500 died in North-West Frontier province in Pakistan. More than 450 died on both sides of the disputed territory of Kashmir.

In Islamabad, people rushed to dig with bare hands to rescue those trapped when a tall residential building collapsed.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who was visiting the site, said the quake was a "test of the nation".

Shortly after he spoke an aftershock struck Islamabad, forcing people from their homes.

The first tremor, which was registered at 0350 GMT, was felt by residents as far away as the Afghan capital, Kabul, and India's capital, Delhi.

Severed legs

Maj Gen Shaukat Sultan, President's Musharraf's spokesman, said: "Casualties will be high... they could be well over 1,000.

Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao told local television: "We have reports that several entire villages have been wiped out."

The head of police in the North West Frontier Province told AFP news agency "between 550 and 600" people had died and the figure was likely to rise.

In Pakistani-controlled Kashmir 250 bodies have been recovered of more than 2,000 feared dead, an official told the BBC from the provincial capital, Muzaffarabad.

"All official buildings have collapsed," he said.

Part of the Margalla Towers residential complex collapsed in Islamabad.

One rescuer, Rehmatullah, said: "I rushed down and for some time you could not see anything because of the dust... We pulled out one man by cutting off his legs."

A Karam Usmani, a 28-year-old policeman told the BBC: "I heard the cries of the people in the debris and with my bare hand I started to dig and I pulled out one dead body.

"But I managed to rescue another man of 35 and carried him on my shoulders to the ambulance."

In Indian-administered Kashmir, 200 are confirmed dead - including 15 soldiers - and 600 injured.

The town of Uri close to the Line of Control that separates divided Kashmir was worst hit, with 104 dead.

The administration is working overtime to restore essential supplies like electricity and water disrupted by the earthquake, says the BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar.

Aid talks

Ben Phillips of Oxfam told the BBC a meeting of relief organisations was under way and is liaising with the UN and the Pakistani government on supplying aid.

Mr Phillips said the initial requirement would be for tents, blankets, food aid and medical supplies.

In other reports around the region:

* A meeting attended by India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in the northern city of Chandigarh was stopped after his bodyguards ordered an immediate evacuation following the tremors.

* The 200-year-old Moti Mahal fort in Poonch district, Indian-administered Kashmir, has collapsed.

* One child was killed and six injured in a school collapse in Rawalpindi, Pakistan's information minister said.