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In Pakistan, scenes of ‘utter devastation’

NBC News' Producer Asif Farooqi describes the scenes of 'utter devastation' left in Pakistan as a result of the earthquake and explains how India and Pakistan have set aside politics to work together in the disputed Kashmir region.
A rescuer from the United Kingdom direct
A rescuer from the United Kingdom directs a crane operator in a bid to find trapped people in the rubble of the high-rise Margalla Towers in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.Asif Hassan / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: NBC News

NBC News producer Asif Farooqi describes the scenes he encountered in the aftermath of Saturday's devastating earthquake and explains how India and Pakistan have set aside politics to work together in the disputed Kashmir region.  

Can you describe the scene in Islamabad? 
Well, I am in Islamabad, which is about 60 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake, in Muzaffarabad. A large apartment complex fell down here because of the quake. There were more than 25 families inside it. So far, some 90 bodies have been discovered. This 10-story apartment was in the posh area of Islamabad and there was a member of parliament living in the apartment.

The building collapsed in such a way that now it is just a huge pile of cement. There is a lot of difficulty evacuating, but with the help of the military and rescue workers, they are trying.

The real devastation is in the northern part of the country, in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. It is a very mountainous area and there are entire villages that have been completely swept away by landslides and flattened by the earthquake. But road access is severely limited to the area because of the landslides.

More than 30,000 people are feared dead so far. But, the number could rise dramatically because so many people are still trapped inside their collapsed houses.

The problem with that area is that it is the remotest part of the country where there are usually very few road links available, and now those that did exist have been blocked by landslides.

Practically no relief has been able to reach that area. There are thousands and thousands of people stranded. Another part of this tragedy is that the government has very limited resources to reach out to those people. The Pakistani government has a very limited number of helicopters which are the only way to reach these people because the roads are all destroyed. 

The government has requested helicopters from the U.S. and the U.K.

The U.S. has sent eight helicopters from Afghanistan to help with the relief effort.

The basic aim of the helicopters is to reach out to those people who are still vulnerable and they need to reach them very quickly. The weather forecast is for rain in that part of the country maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow.

The people are using their bare hands to try to dig out the rubble to try to reach their loved ones who are trapped in collapsed buildings. They can hear their shouts, but they can’t reach them.

There was one case where we saw pictures of a man who was half trapped under the rubble and he was still alive, but they did not have any means to move the rubble to help rescue him. So, these are the tragedies that are unfolding very, very quickly. 

Since Kashmir region has a large build-up of the Pakistani military, did that help at all in terms of the military being there to help with the aftermath of the earthquake?  
Well, there is a very big military presence in that area. And in fact we know that more than 300 Pakistani military officers and troops have died in this earthquake.  

There is a military hospital in the area that has also collapsed with hundreds of people inside it. Even the military that is there are not able to mobilize much because of the road blocks. Due to the landslides, they can not move heavy military trucks or machinery. The military is still not able to do all the relief work that is really needed. 

How has the situation been between Pakistan and India? Have they been cooperating with one another?
Soon after the earthquake the Indian prime minister called up the Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf and sent his condolences and promised whatever cooperation and assistance that is needed.

Pakistan said it would accept earthquake aid from India, setting aside politics and backing away from earlier refusals. In a gesture of goodwill, the commander of a Kashmiri rebel group reportedly ordered a suspension of violence in the Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir.

India promised to send tents, food and medicine as soon as possible to the earthquake-hit areas in the Pakistani portion of Kashmir.