Rescuers scramble to reach survivors as Pakistan quake toll climbs

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Rescuers battled along badly damaged roads and combed through toppled buildings Wednesday to reach victims of an earthquake that killed at least 25 people and injured hundreds more in northeast Pakistan.

Authorities were still trying to assess the quake’s impact in more remote parts of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, but in built-up areas the immediate damage was evident.

After a night of heavy rain compounded the misery of survivors, hundreds gathered to attend the funerals of residents killed near the city of Mirpur, about 130 kilometres (80 miles) southeast of the capital, Islamabad.

“It was like doomsday for us. We lost a number of our near and dear ones,” Muhammad Azam told AFP at a funeral for a neighbour. “Our loved ones will never come back.”

The 5.2 magnitude quake was not as strong as several that have struck the area over the years, but the epicentre was very shallow  which generally causes more damage.

Near Mirpur, a well-developed city known for its palatial residences, many roads were destroyed, while bridges, mobile phone towers and electricity poles were also badly damaged.

The village of Jatlan on the outskirts of Mirpur appeared to be one of the worst affected.

There, residents combed through debris and assessed the damage inflicted on their homes, with large cracks defacing walls in the houses that still stood, and brick fences reduced to rubble.

“I lost my house. I lost everything,” said Abdullah Khan, whose three-bedroom home was flattened.

The Pakistan military continued to lead search and rescue operations.

Lieutenant General Mohammad Afzal of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) said 25 people had been confirmed killed so far — 24 in Mirpur and one in the nearby city of Jhelum.

“Some 350 people were wounded, 80 of them critically,” he told a press conference Wednesday.