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Massive Aid Effort Fighting Time in South Asia

10 October 2005

Massive convoys are rushing aid to Muzaffarabad, the worst hit city in the South Asia earthquake. The region is devastated and relief workers, survivors and officials are struggling to aid victims and restore order.

Helicopters are constantly flying overhead, delivering aid when they land and evacuating patients when they leave.

The major roads into Muzaffarabad are still blocked by mudslides, and the only land access remains a narrow, one lane road that snakes through the rugged mountains surrounding the devastated city.

The road was jammed all day with military convoys carrying excavation equipment and fresh medical supplies.

But inside the city, survivors say they have yet to see the relief supplies, and time is running out.

Hundreds of people are trapped beneath collapsed buildings, and families are frantically digging through the rubble to free them.

Standing next to an enormous pile of rubble, Sayed Ahmed, 32, says, at least 15 people are buried underneath and no one is helping him get them out.

"People, they are still alive and they are dying with hunger, with injures and with thirst," he said. "My request, to higher authorities, to Pakistan and to the whole world is please help those people."

Just a few minutes later, a group of British rescue workers reaches the scene.

Volunteer Ian McCafee, whose team did not get into the city until Monday, says there is still hope survivors can be found among the debris.

"Part of our team pulled a body out of a bank about two hours ago, and we have just been to two schools," he said.

Further up the road, doctors have set up a triage center in an old sports stadium near a university where hundreds of students were killed.

The dead are left in one corner of the stadium, the injured are put on makeshift stretchers, where they wait for help.

Sisilio Thanh, a volunteer with the aid group, Doctors Without Borders, reached Muzaffarabad after midday. He says the conditions here are much worse than he anticipated.

"Well, the past two days, communication was really cut," he said. "So, then we really did not expect that Muzaffarabad was this bad. We thought that other areas up in the mountains … but then when we see Muzaffarabad. Now, it is really, really bad. But, at least, more of our teams will be coming this afternoon and in the coming days."

When asked what the city needed most, one local volunteer said, "...everything: More doctors, more medicine, more food, more shelter, more everything."

Officials say at least 70 percent of the city has been destroyed, and more than 17,000 people may have died.

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