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Scenes from Pakistan and India’s quake zone

Vignettes from Pakistan and India’s quake zone.
Kashmiri school teacher Abdul Qayyum points on Wednesday to the rubble of Pilot High School, where panicked students ran inside during Saturday's deadly earthquake. The school was in Bagh, a town in Kashmir Pakistan.B.k.bangash / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan — With a bundle of donated clothes and a walking stick at his side, 60-year-old Sarfiullah Khan sat on the roadside, looking on blankly as quake victims grabbed handouts off aid trucks.

“They come 20 times. They get stuff. Then they come again and spread their hands, asking for more,” said Khan, shaking his head.

The arrival of aid in Muzaffarabad has brought relief and chaos, almost in equal measure, as hungry and homeless residents jostle for food, water, clothes and tents. Despite the efforts of aid workers for an orderly distribution, the weak are often thrust aside.

“What should I do? Where should I go? There’s nothing to eat or drink,” said Khan, a retired government employee who had been visiting from the outlying Neelum Valley when the quake struck. He has no idea if his wife and four sons had survived.

He looked forlornly as another truck distributing bottles of drinking water was engulfed by people. Rather than join the melee, he picked up his bundle of donated clothes and with walking stick in hand, limped away.

BAGH, Pakistan — People digging for quake survivors in this Himalayan town say their bare hands are not enough. They are desperate for heavy machinery: drills, backhoes — anything that can help remove the debris and save lives.

The likelihood that anyone is alive beneath the rubble in Bagh grows more remote by the hour, but residents cling to hope.

“The government should send heavy machinery so that we can get bodies or save those who are still alive,” said Abdul Qayyum, a teacher who stood near the rubble of a state primary school.

Qayyum, who was standing in the school yard when the quake struck, said one-quarter of its 800 students were buried when the classrooms crumbled. Nearly 100 bodies had been removed by Wednesday, four days after the disaster.

“Unfortunately, 100 children or so are still trapped there,” he said.

Some of them, Qayyum said, could be alive.

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — Five men stand apart from the crowd at the busy air base where hundreds of quake survivors have been flown from hard-hit Kashmir, the Himalayan region claimed by both Pakistan and India.

They’re Indians, who traveled across the border before the quake using a bus service that started earlier this year as part of efforts by Pakistan and India to forge peace after a half century of conflict.

The five, all Sikhs, were sitting in a house in the Pakistani town of Garhi Dopata when the ground shook.

“All of us are OK. God has been kind to us in a town which turned into ruins,” said Autar Singh, a retired Indian police superintendent.

A Pakistan Air Force helicopter brought them to the Chaklala Air Base in Rawalpindi, just outside of Islamabad. They were due to fly back to India on Thursday.

Forty-six others who came by the same bus from the Indian side of the Himalayan region are still unaccounted for.

SRINAGAR, India — Indian soldiers on Wednesday put aside their decades-old rivalry with counterparts in neighboring Pakistan, crossing the border to help Pakistani troops who called out for help when their bunker collapsed in last weekend’s earthquake.

The soldiers guarding the bridge that links the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of the disputed Kashmir region helped repair the bunker and returned to their posts, an Indian army spokesman said.

“Some unarmed Indian soldiers manning the Indian side of the bridge went across after the Pakistani side shouted for help,” said Col. J. S. Juneja.

Indian and Pakistan have gone to war three times since gaining independence from Britain in 1947 — twice over Kashmir, which is divided between the two countries but claimed in full by both.

Underscoring continued tensions, Juneja played down the helping hand provided by the Indian soldiers.

“This was a humanitarian gesture ... a spontaneous reaction by the soldiers,” he said.

DARD KHOT, India — They raced down the road by the busload, hundreds of young men from around Kashmir bearing food, blankets and medicine for victims of South Asia’s earthquake.

The volunteers came from mosques, student organizations, far away towns and villages, political parties — even a cricket club. They lugged heavy bags of supplies up steep mountain paths to villages like Dard Khot, which are desperately in need of aid.

“We’ve brought food and medicine,” said Shamin Ahmed Ganie of the Shaheen Cricket Club from the town of Baramulla, about 40 miles away.

He also brought a cricket bat.

“Maybe I will show some children how we play,” Ganie said