Pakistan earthquake victims still waiting for relief

MIRPUR, Pakistan (AP) — Thousands of Pakistanis were desperately waiting for government aid on Wednesday, nearly 24 hours after a powerful 5.8 magnitude earthquake damaged homes in Pakistan-held Kashmir.

Fearing aftershocks, many people spent the night in open areas. At least 25 people were killed Tuesday and over 700 were injured.

The hardest hit area was in the district of Mirpur, where thousands of homes and buildings were damaged, many reduced to piles of bricks and rubble.

Under cloudy skies, scores of people were seen picking through ruined buildings by an Associated Press reporter. Others sat in shock as relatives and a small number of volunteers tried to provide them food.

"I came out of the (office) building and a part of the roof collapsed on my head. I was injured on my head and back. After receiving treatment, I came to my home and saw seven rooms of my house had collapsed but my family members were safe," Muhammad Mehmood, a local resident, told AP.

He expressed his frustration at having to wait for assistance from the authorities. "You can see my damaged home. You can see other damaged homes — and is there any sign of government help?" he asked.

Pakistani officials have said they are providing disaster relief to people affected by the earthquake, but an AP reporter saw no tents in quake-affected areas.

Mohammad Afzal, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, said tents, food and blankets should start reaching affected areas later Wednesday, adding: "Each and every quake-victim will be looked after."

Afzal said doctors were treating hundreds of people, some of whom had received multiple injuries. Authorities in Mirpur were seen repairing a key road close to the earthquake's epicenter.

Earlier in the day, mourners buried the dead in Mirpur and nearby villages. Mirpur is in the mountainous Kashmir region, which is divided between Pakistan and neighboring India but claimed by both in its entirety.

Kashmir bore the brunt of Tuesday's quake — almost all the casualties and damage were reported there. One person was also killed in Jehlum, a city in the eastern Punjab province where the temblor was also felt.

"The shallow earthquake was 10 kilometers (six miles) deep and that is why it caused so much damage in Mirpur in Kashmir," which was not far away from the quake's epicenter, meteorologist Muhammad Riaz said Tuesday.

The quake also rattled the capital, Islamabad, and parts of northwest Pakistan but caused no damage there.

Pakistan is prone to violent seismic upheavals. A magnitude 7.6 quake in 2005 killed thousands of people in Pakistan and Kashmir.

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Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed contributed to this story from Islamabad.

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