Authorities begin earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan

MIRPUR, Pakistan (AP) — Authorities began distributing tents, food and water among thousands of earthquake victims in Pakistan-held Kashmir on Wednesday, as the death toll from a powerful 5.8 magnitude temblor that rocked a large swath of the country's northeast a day earlier jumped to 37, officials said.

Kashmir bore the brunt of Tuesday's quake in which hundreds of other people were injured. One person was killed in Jehlum, a city in northeastern Punjab province.

Fearing aftershocks, many spent the night in the open in the hardest hit areas in Mirpur, a district in Pakistan-held Kashmir where hundreds of homes and buildings were damaged, affecting thousands in the city of some 5 million residents.

Authorities said rescue work in quake-hit areas was completed and authorities were still assessing damages.

According to a military statement, army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday visited quake-affected areas in Kashmir.

Earlier, under cloudy skies, some residents complained they had not received any aid 24 hours after the quake rattled the region and some were seen by an Associated Press reporter picking through ruined buildings. Others sat in shock as relatives and a small number of volunteers provided small amounts of 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," resident Muhammad Mehmood told the AP. "After receiving treatment, I came to my home and saw seven rooms of my house had collapsed but my family members were safe."

Mehmoud was frustrated at having to wait for assistance. "You can see my damaged home. You can see other damaged homes — and is there any sign of government help?" he said.

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

Government aid arrived in Mirpur after 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.

"The shallow earthquake was 10 kilometers (six miles) deep and that is why it caused so much damage in Mirpur in Kashmir," which isn't far 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.


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

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