Caked in thick grey dust and using only candlelight and the cries of the injured as their guide, tens of thousands of rescuers continued a desperate effort last night to save thousands of people buried in rubble after a huge earthquake flattened towns and villages across Pakistan and northern India. The quake, at 8.50am local time (3.50am BST), was of a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter scale and wiped out entire villages in the forest-clad mountains in Pakistani Kashmir, near the Indian border, about 60 miles north-east of Islamabad. ...As the earthquake struck, screams were heard across Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, as people fled homes, shops and offices fearing they would be buried under rubble. On the streets, men spontaneously started reading out verses from the Koran and women beat their chests in a traditional display of grief. 'Thanks to Allah, today is Saturday. Had it been Friday many would have died of heart attacks,' said Aminbin Khaliq, a shopkeeper. Muslims widely believe that the day of resurrection will come on a Friday.
...For many in the aftermath of the disaster, described by the US Meteorological Department as the worst to hit the region in decades, the efforts of rescuers and the military to pull them out of the wreckage was already too late.
In Abbotabad, north of Islamabad, dozens of injured victims and other patients, some hooked to intravenous drips, lay on the lawn of the city hospital after officials said aftershocks made it unsafe to stay inside.
In Uri and Baramulla, the worst affected towns in Indian Kashmir, survivors told how people formed rescue teams. Many complained it took hours for heavy lifting gear to arrive. Poor building standards were highlighted by many as responsible for the collapses. 'Construction is rubbish in India. The builders use more sand than cement,' said one rescuer.
'It was like hell,' said Nauman Ali, who lived on the top floor of a 10-storey residence in Islamabad which was reduced to rubble.