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Bulldozers Move In As Quake Rescue Teams Face Grim Truth

Pakistani rescuers transport a body out of the wreckages of a collapsed school in the earthquake-hit remote area of Balakot, Pakistan, 13 October 2005. Hope to find whatever survivors from the 08 October earthquake has faded, with the 23 000 death toll expected to rise with the removal of more corpses from the debris. AFP photo by Philippe Lopez.
by Deborah Pasmantier
Muzaffarabad, Pakistan (AFP) Oct 13, 2005
Heart-breaking decisions were being made across quake-hit Pakistan late Thursday as night set in and rescuers gave up on the search for survivors five days after a massive earthquake.

Rescue teams were packing their bags in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-controlled Kashmir which was almost completely levelled, as attention turned to bringing relief to desperate survivors.

"We worked hard but the site had become too dangerous so we had to leave it," said Daniel Davis, a member of a British team that struggled for half a day to save a 20-year-old woman they believed to be alive beneath a collapsed house here.

"It was terrible, as if we had abandoned her."

But many frantic survivors refused to lose hope, especially the parents of hundreds of children who were buried alive beneath their schools. Some continued to dig with their bare hands throughout the day Thursday.

"I have found one of the bodies of one of their friends but there is only a 10 percent chance that my sons are alive," said Man Sabar Naqui, 50, who was looking for his two sons aged six and seven.

In the northern town of Bakot, North West Frontier Province Education Minister Fazle Ali said 400 girls were "trapped" in the ruins of one school.

"About 400 girls students are still trapped. Only 40 bodies have been recovered during the past two or three days at the government school," he said.

Russian and South Korean teams kept up their work throughout the day in Muzaffarabad, while Spanish and Dutch teams were also refusing to give up at a collapsed school in the Kashmiri town of Bagh.

"There is little chance of finding anyone alive but still there is a sliver of hope and that's why we're working," said Andrei Fiodorov, a Russian team member with a sniffer dog.

"When the excavators are being used it means there is no hope anymore."

But the army was doing just that, bringing in heavy earth-moving equipment to parts of the ravaged Himalayan city.

"We have done what we could manually. Now we need a machine to clear the dead bodies," said an army officer in charge of one of the clearing operations.

In Bagh, Army Major Khalid Hussain said he could not count the dead and the priority now lay with the living.

"We have suffered massive loss but we cannot give you an exact figure. Presently the biggest task of the army is to restore road links to the hundreds of villages which are cut off," he said.

The officials death toll was more than 25,000 in Pakistan's worst natural disaster, with another 63,000 injured and 2.5 million homeless. Another 1,329 people had died in Indian-administered Kashmir, police said.

British team leader Garry de la Pomerai said his crew had worked late into the night Wednesday to save the 20-year-old woman, whom they nicknamed 'Emma'.

"We're now going to try to send in a combined force of all the teams and taking in the best equipment available. We still believe she is alive down there," he said early Thursday morning.

But by nightfall Thursday, the battle had been lost.

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.

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