Pakistani PM visits disaster zone, pledges to work harder for victims
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Wednesday relief operations in the wake of the Pakistani earthquake soon would have to switch from rescue to "rehabilitation" as winter approached.
Speaking to reporters on his first trip to this city since it was almost completely wiped out in Saturday's quake, Aziz also said more must be done to help the victims.
"At the moment we are in a relief and rescue phase. The third phase is rehabilitation... We have to think of the winter which is just around the corner," he said over the wailing of an infant at a relief centre here.
"So we are now working in a parallel track to provide people a place to stay where they can face winter, and this is ... all over the affected area."
The Pakistani government has said 23,000 people are confirmed to have died in the 7.6-magnitude quake and another 2.5 million were made homeless.
Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, bore the brunt of the calamity.
Aziz said a "human catastrophe" had befallen the mainly Muslim South Asian nation, and praised the response of local and international emergency workers who have rushed to Pakistan.
"If you see how the world has reacted, how our people have reacted, it is really a miracle. But we have to do more," he said.
Aziz, who has previously made helicopter tours of the devastated areas, was briefed on his arrival here by Major General Khalid Nawaz, coordinator of relief efforts for the army in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
He was informed that 20,000-28,000 people could be dead in Muzaffarabad, and in nearby Rawalakot and Bagh that the toll could reach up to 12,000.
"These are all 'guesstimates'. Whatever official figures we have given they are correct but we are opening up the Jhelum and Neelum valleys (in Kashmir) and there could be more," Aziz said.
Most roads in the difficult mountain terrain have been reopened but several villages remained completely cut off four days after the earthquake.
Even in Muzaffarabad, the centre for the relief effort where food and water was being stockpiled, the distribution of supplies sparks fighting among the desperate refugees in their own city.
Trucks painted in the Pakistani style of bright colours and murals started streaming into Muzaffarabad mid-morning Wednesday, clogging up the streets but bringing cheers from survivors.
Distribution of goods ranging from water, biscuits and milk to blankets and clothing, which took place at the University Stadium, sparked fighting which police had to subdue with clubs.
Youths swarmed on one truck and looted it as soon as it stopped, throwing clothing and blankets to hundreds of outstretched hands. Men and women struggled for the goods, slapping, punching and even throttling each other.
At least two women went sprawling in the mud before police waded in and began beating the crowd.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.