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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Rescuers in Pakistan Battling Against Time to Save Trapped Victims

11 October 2005

Emergency workers in quake-hit Pakistan are racing against time to rescue thousands of victims still trapped in the rubble of flattened buildings and villages across the northern regions of the country. A 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck that part of the country on Saturday, leaving an estimated death toll of more than 21,000, with tens of thousands of others injured.

Rescuers, many of them desperate relatives, are battling on with their bare hands in the hope of finding survivors among the thousands of people still trapped in the rubble in Northern Pakistan.

Relief efforts have remained chaotic due to blocked roads and a shortage of aircraft. The Pakistan military has been heading the emergency effort and has employed 26 helicopters so far, but it says the scale of the task is enormous and it desperately needs more.

While appealing for more international emergency aid, President Pervez Musharraf is also urging the local business community to come forward to help.

The president says aid is needed not just for emergency relief, but for reconstruction later.

Aid workers describe the situation of tens of thousands who survived the quake but are trapped in rubble or left injured as "precarious."

International donors have announced hundreds of millions of dollars of aid and have rushed in doctors, food, tents and equipment. United Nations officials say Pakistan has been promised 20 helicopters by donor nations, but it needs about 50 more to airlift food, medicine and relief.

In addition to an initial $50 million for emergency aid, the United States has sent eight military helicopters to join the relief effort.

Meanwhile, in the Pakistani capital, European, Arab, Japanese and Swedish nationals are among an estimated 45 people still trapped in the ruins of a ten-story apartment building that collapsed when the tremor struck. On Tuesday afternoon, John Holland, the head of the British rescue team, told VOA they have spotted two more people alive under the debris.

"We can poke our head through to see them, but now we have to cut away that concrete, so we have to prop and shore to make it safe," said Mr. Holland.

Late Monday, more than two days after the quake, the British rescuers pulled an Iraqi child and his mother from the collapsed building.

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