Casualties could exceed 100,000: unofficial reports:
Quake death toll now 23,000: Aziz
* PM says 51,000 injured and about 2.5 million homeless
* Domestic donations Rs 600m
* Roads to Muzaffarabad, Mansehra, Balakot open
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Tuesday that 23,000 people had died in Saturday’s earthquake and that the death toll would increase after rescuers reached far-off areas.
Speaking at a press conference, he said 51,000 people had been injured and about 2.5 million had been rendered homeless. However, according to unofficial reports the death toll might exceed 100,000.
The prime minister said that more than $300 million had been pledged by foreign companies and international donor agencies while donations from domestic sources had reached Rs 600 million within the first 48 hours of the earthquake.
Admitting that many areas were still inaccessible, he said two Pakistan Army divisions had been moved to the quake-hit areas. They would help and coordinate with relief work with soldiers present in the areas, he added.
Identifying five priority areas, he they included the provision of food, tents, blankets, medicine and construction material and equipment to the victims. He also said thousands of homes destroyed by the earthquake would be rebuilt.
He said rehabilitation work would continue along with the relief operation. The damage assessment was underway, but it was not possible to give an accurate figure at the moment, he added.
Main roads leading to Muzaffarabad, Mansehra and Balakot were open to traffic, but many small roads leading to villages remained blocked, he said, adding that soldiers were working hard to restore road links with small villages near the devastated cities of Muzaffarabad and Balakot.
He said the federal government had provided Rs 500 million each to the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and NWFP governments to carry out relief work.
Eleven foreign medical teams and 15 foreign rescue teams were operating in the tremor-hit areas. He said, adding that eight mobile hospitals had started providing medical services to the injured.
He said relief work and rehabilitation of the homeless was a mammoth task that would take time. He also said satellite public call offices would be installed by today (Wednesday).
About 40 helicopters were flying rescue sorties in the quake-hit areas, he said, adding that now that roads to major cities had been restored, the helicopters would be used to carry relief goods to inaccessible and remote areas.
About the reconstruction phase, the prime minister said that in the short term there would be temporary repair and opening up of areas followed by medium term plans of rehabilitating roads, government buildings, schools, hospitals, power and water supplies and telecom services.
He ruled out the apprehension that the army would be given control of the quake-hit areas because of deteriorating law and order there.
Asked whether Pakistan would accept relief assistance from India, he said Pakistan had no problem in receiving relief goods from India, subject to its needs.
He praised the role of the opposition parties in supporting the government’s relief efforts.