Death toll in Pakistan quake climbs to 22 as rescuers assess damage
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Death toll in Pakistan quake climbs to 22 as rescuers assess damage

RESCUE workers battled on Wednesday to reach people affected by a shallow earthquake that rocked northeast Pakistan a day earlier, killing at least 22 people and injuring hundreds more as it tore roads apart and felled buildings.

Schools were shuttered near the quake-hit city of Mirpur in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir where poor areas were reduced to rubble and the towering brick fences surrounding expensive homes had crumbled.

Residents combed through the wreckage and assessed the damage inflicted on their homes, with large cracks defacing walls in the houses that still stood.

“I lost my house. I lost everything,” said Abdullah Khan, whose three-bedroom home in Jatlan village on the outskirts of Mirpur was flattened by the quake.

The Pakistan military continued to lead search and rescue operations as day broke with fears growing that the death toll may jump again.

“Damage assessment based on aerial and initial physical survey done — 22 people lost life including an army soldier,” the military’s information wing said late Tuesday.

Rain continued to inundate the area after overnight showers turned already damaged roads into muddy thoroughfares where livestock roamed freely.

Roads destroyed

Mirpur, a city known for its palatial houses, has strong ties to Britain with the majority of its 450,000 residents carrying both British and Pakistani passports.

Rescue operations continued through the night in the area as local hospitals swelled with many patients suffering from multiple fractures.

“I was going to see a friend when the entire area shook with a bang and a huge wall crumbled over me. When I regained my senses I found myself here in this bed,” Ali Badshah, a fifth-grade student, told AFP from a hospital in Mirpur where he was being treated for a broken leg.

Near Mirpur, roads were completely destroyed and vehicles overturned by the tremors while bridges, mobile phone towers, and electricity poles were also badly damaged in the melee.

The quake sent people in Lahore and Islamabad running into the streets, while tremors were also felt as far as New Delhi.

The Press Trust of India reported that panicking people rushed out of their homes and offices in several places, including in Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana.

Pakistan straddles part of the boundary where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, making the country susceptible to earthquakes.

The country was also hit by a 7.6-magnitude quake on October 8, 2005, that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million homeless, mainly in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.