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Death toll in Asian quake tops 700

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Death toll in Asian quake tops 700

Official says number of dead could reach into the thousands

(CNN) -- At least 746 people were killed and hundreds more injured when a magnitude 7.6 earthquake -- estimated to be the most intense in the region in the last century -- jolted residents of the south Asian subcontinent.

But officials warned the death toll from Saturday's quake could be in the thousands in Pakistan, India, the Pakistani- and Indian-administered areas of Kashmir, and in Afghanistan.

The effects of the quake -- with an epicenter 60 miles (about 97 kilometers) north-northeast of Islamabad near Pakistani-controlled Kashmir -- were felt as far as 400 miles away Saturday with aftershocks sweeping the region.

At least 554 of those were in Pakistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, authorities said. They included a girl killed when her school was damaged in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad; 12 people in Islamabad; 80 people in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir; and 100 in Pakistan's North-West Frontier province.

In Indian-controlled Kashmir, Vijay Bakaya, secretary to the chief minister, initially said at least 157 people were dead and 600 injured. Later, however, police in the area said the total was estimated at about 200. Bakaya said some 500 homes in the region had been destroyed.

The quake also killed one person in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. Some houses in the region reportedly collapsed. Damage and casualties were also reported in remote northeast Afghanistan.

"This was the strongest earthquake in the area during the last hundred years," Qamar Uz Zaman, director-general of the Pakistani Meteorological Department, told CNN.

Although the final death toll will not be known until some of Pakistan's remote areas can be reached, "one can see from the widespread damage that it has caused, and the number of houses that have been damaged, that the number of dead or injured could be running into thousands," said Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, Pakistani army spokesman.

In addition, several northern villages may be demolished, officials warned. "This is really a very serious and very grave situation," said Anisa Zaib Tahir Khali, Pakistan's minister of state for information.

A series of aftershocks, including one of 6.3 magnitude and four more at 5.4 or above, rattled the region, creating new panic among residents. In Indian-controlled Kashmir, many people refused to return indoors out of fear of a new quake.

Frantic efforts to rescue survivors were under way in Islamabad, where an apartment building collapsed.

Elsewhere in Pakistan, preliminary reports indicate "widespread damage," particularly in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and the country's northern area, Sultan told CNN. But communication disruptions in those areas meant information was sketchy, he said. A helicopter rescue operation was launched.

Video footage from Pakistani television showed crowds of people climbing on the rubble of a collapsed apartment building and attempting to free those trapped under large concrete slabs. Some of the injured were carried away on stretchers.

Between 150 to 200 people are trapped under the debris of the building, called the Margallah Towers, according to Pakistan's interior minister, Aftab Sherpao. Buildings nearby have been evacuated and other structures in the area were damaged.

City officials are trying to obtain heavy earth and rubble moving machinery from the private sector to help rescue the trapped people.

The temblor's epicenter was more than 6 miles below the Earth's surface, according to the Web site of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Earthquake Information Center.

The quake, which struck about 8:50 a.m. local time (11:50 p.m. Friday EDT), was believed to be the strongest in Pakistan in nearly 20 years.

Many citizens were still in their beds at the time of the quake. Witness Malik Abdul Manan said he and his family "woke up and ran out. The shocks went on for a long time." (Survivors describe shock awakening)

The quake was "quite shallow," said David Applegate, senior science advisor for earthquake and geologic hazards for the U.S. Geological Survey. "That means the shaking is going to be very intense."

The fact that Islamabad was near the epicenter "means a fairly large urban population has experienced some strong shaking," Applegate said.

There have been some initial aftershocks, he said, "and we expect quite a number more" -- some in the 6-plus magnitude range. Those aftershocks could cause additional damage to structures already weakened by the first quake, he said.

A string of about six aftershocks, some ranging between magnitude 5 and 6, were recorded, said Qamar. More were expected in the next 48 hours.

The quake also triggered landslides, resulting in the closure of some highways, officials said.

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz met in Rawalpindi on Saturday, according to a statement issued by the government, and "expressed their profound grief over the tragic loss of life and damage to property as a result of the quake."

The two asked federal and provincial governments to mobilize all resources and speed recovery operations, and Aziz flew over Islamabad to assess the damage.

"The president and prime minister have appealed to the nation to stay calm in the face of the earthquake and have directed the concerned authorities to carry out an immediate assessment of the extent of damage caused by it," the statement said.

Applegate said Pakistan traditionally has been an active region for earthquakes.

Saturday's quake was a "thrust" earthquake, caused by friction between the Indian subcontinent as it pushes against Asia. Although it is the same kind of mechanism that creates tsunamis, the quake was centered far enough inland that there was no danger of a tsunami, he said.

Buildings swayed 400 miles away

However, the Pakistani Meteorological Department's Zaman said the region of Pakistan where the quake was centered has been fairly inactive during the last century.

The quake was also felt in India and Afghanistan. In New Delhi, some 406 miles from Islamabad, buildings swayed and furniture moved, causing widespread panic among residents, many of whom rushed into the streets. The Indian government activated its national disaster plan.

The National Earthquake Information Center put the quake at 7.6 magnitude, which it considers "major." The Pakistani Meteorological Department put the magnitude at 7.5, and Japan's Meteorological Agency put it at 7.8.

In February 2004, a pair of earthquakes registering 5.5 and 5.4 magnitude, respectively, killed at least 21 people and injured dozens more and destroyed hundreds of homes built of mud, stone and timber in a rugged, mountainous area about 90 miles northwest of Islamabad.

In January 2001, some 30,000 people died in a magnitude 7.7 quake in western India.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Satinder Bindra, CNN Producers Syed Mohsin Naqvi and John Raedler and Journalists Mukhtar Ahmed in Srinagar and Tom Coghlan in Kabul contributed to this rep

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I have never witnessed such a powerful earthquake. I was sleeping when earthquake started. I thought my blood pressure is low. I could stand with difficulty. I went to kitchen to have some water. There I saw the mirror was doing 'Bhangra' dance. I realised that it was a big earthquake. I then came out of my house, but could not go down stairs because of my health problem. So, I sat on stairs. Stairs were shivering so badly that I could not stand, nor I could re-enter my house. I never saw such earthquake in my life.

In evening, there was another earthquake, which was not a big one. Authorities has warned that there could be more earthquake in next two days.

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Quake Kills More Than 3,000 in South Asia

By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA, Associated Press Writer1 hour, 7 minutes ago

A huge earthquake triggered landslides, toppled an apartment building and flattened villages of mud-brick homes Saturday, killing more than 3,000 people across a mountainous swath touching Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

The casualty toll from the 7.6-magnitude tremor was rising early Sunday as rescuers struggled to dig people from the wreckage, their work made more difficult as rain and hail turned dirt and debris into sticky muck. The worst damage was in Pakistan, where the dead included 250 girls crushed at a school and 200 soldiers on duty in the Himalayas.

For hours, aftershocks rattled an area stretching from Afghanistan across northern Pakistan into India's portion of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. Hospitals moved quake victims onto lawns, fearing tremors could cause more damage.

The earthquake, which struck just before 9 a.m., caused buildings to sway for about a minute in the capitals of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, an area some 625 miles across. Panicked people ran from homes and offices, and communications were cut to many areas.

Most of the devastation occurred in the mountains of northern Pakistan. The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake was centered about 60 miles northeast of the capital, Islamabad, in the forested mountains of Pakistani Kashmir.

"It is a national tragedy," said Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, Pakistan's chief army spokesman. "This is the worst earthquake in recent times."

In Mansehra, a shopowner named Haji Fazal Ilahi stood vigil over the body of his 14-year-old daughter, which lay under a sheet on a hospital mattress. He said his wife, another daughter and a brother also died when the family's house fell.

"I could see rocks and homes tumbling down the mountains," said Ilahi, who was driving to his village of Garlat when the quake struck. "When I reached my village, there was nothing left of my home."

India's government offered condolences and assistance to Pakistan, a longtime rival with which it has been pursuing peace efforts after fighting three wars since independence from British rule in 1947, two of them over Kashmir.

"While parts of India have also suffered from this unexpected natural disaster, we are prepared to extend any assistance with rescue and relief which you may deem appropriate," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a message to Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

India reported at least 250 people killed and 800 injured when the quake collapsed 2,700 houses and other buildings in Jammu-Kashmir state. Most of the deaths occurred in the border towns of Uri, Tangdar and Punch and in the city of Srinagar, said B.B. Vyas, the state's divisional commissioner.

Telephone lines were down. Some bridges developed cracks, but traffic was reported to be passing over them.

A senior Pakistani army officer said 200 soldiers were killed by debris and landslides in Pakistan's portion of Kashmir. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

About 1,000 civilians died in that region, said Sardar Mohammed Anwar, the top government official in the area.

"This is my conservative guess, and the death toll could be much higher," Anwar told Pakistan's Aaj television station, adding that most homes in Muzaffarabad, the area's capital, were damaged, and schools and hospitals collapsed.

The death toll was at least 1,600 in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, said Akram Durani, the province's top elected official.

Ataullah Khan Wazir, police chief in the northwestern district of Mansehra, said authorities there pulled the bodies of 250 students from the wreckage of one girls' school in the village of Ghari Habibibullah. About 500 students were injured, he said.

Dozens of children were feared killed in other schools.

Mansehra, about 90 miles northwest of the capital, was believed to be a hotbed of Islamic militant activity during the time the Taliban religious militia ruled neighboring Afghanistan. Al-Qaida operatives trained suicide squads at a camp there, Afghan and Pakistani sources told The Associated Press in 2002.

Afghanistan appeared to suffer the least damage. In its east, an 11-year-old girl was crushed to death when a wall in her home collapsed, police official Gafar Khan said.

A U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara, said the quake was felt at Bagram, the main American base in Afghanistan, but he had no reports of damage at bases around the country.

The United Nations said it was working with Pakistan, Afghanistan and India on an emergency response to the quake.

President Bush offered condolences, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States was ready to help.

"At this difficult time, the United States stands with its friends in Pakistan and India, just as they stood with us and offered assistance after Hurricane Katrina," Rice said in a statement.

In Pakistan, Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz ordered the military to extend "all-out help" to quake-hit areas and appealed to the nation to stay calm.

Helicopters and C-130 transport planes took troops and supplies to damaged areas, but landslides and rain hindered rescue efforts.

The only serious damage reported in Pakistan's capital was the collapse of a 10-story apartment building, where at least 10 people were killed and 126 were injured. Hospital doctors said the dead included an Egyptian diplomat, and the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo said two Japanese were killed.

A man named Rehmatullah who lived near the apartment building said dust enveloped the wreckage.

"I rushed down, and for some time you could not see anything because of the dust. Then we began to look for people in the rubble," he said. "We pulled out one man by cutting off his legs."

"It was like hell," added Nauman Ali, who lives in a nearby building. "I was tossed up in my bed and the ceiling fan struck against the roof."

Aided by two large cranes, hundreds of police and soldiers helped remove chunks of concrete, one of which was splattered with blood. One rescue worker said he heard faint cries from people trapped in the rubble.

In Abbotabad, north of Islamabad, dozens of injured quake victims and other patients lay on the lawn of the city hospital as staff with loudspeakers appealed to the public for food and other relief supplies.

One of the injured was an 8-year-old boy, Qadeer, whose father, a farmer named Jehangir, said the only buildings left standing in their village were a mosque and a school. Qadeer lay unconscious, his right leg heavily bandaged.

Authorities laid out dozens of bodies under sheets in a damaged sports stadium in Muzaffarabad.


Associated Press reporters Munir Ahmad, Sadaqat Jan, Riaz Khan and Asif Shahzad contributed to this report.

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That's how world will end..keep praying ... a person who prays and remembers death all the time shall win from this battle and be elevated to higher realm after death..!

Rest like us will come back again in earth and face slow end of world and suffering.

Life is illusion after death or in time of death..everything you love or desire seems like a dream.

Naam Jaapi Chalo..that's only way.

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