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Over 18,000 Killed by Major Quake in South Asia

About 18,000 people were killed and 40,000 people injured in a strong earthquake on Saturday, Pakistani military spokesman said on Sunday.

Major General Shaukat Sultan told private Geo television that across the country, 17,000 people were killed in Pakistan- controlled Kashmir and 1,000 more in Punjab and North West Frontier province.

Over 210 army jawans lost their lives due to the earthquake and more than 400 injured, Sultan said, adding the death toll could rise further.

He said many affected areas were still not accessible.

The quake rocked major Pakistani cities including Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Rawalpindi and other parts of the country, and in the outskirts of Azad Kashmir, several villages have been totally wiped out.

In northern Pakistan, several villages were buried in landslides triggered by the quake, Pakistan's military said.

The tremors were also felt in India's Delhi, western Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Ahmedabad.

In Afghanistan, an 11-year-old girl was killed in the quake as the roof caved in on her in Surkhroad district of eastern Nangarhar Province, a senior official in the provincial police department told Xinhua.

Shortly after the earthquake, the strongest one in South Asia in decades, relief teams were on the move.

A United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team will assist with the ongoing assessment and coordination work in response to a request made by Pakistan, a UN spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has already released US$100,000 in emergency cash grant for the immediate delivery of relief aid.

The International Red Cross said it was busy preparing an emergency response to offer help to Pakistan and India.

US President George W. Bush said US aid was on the way. Britain was sending rescue experts and aid workers to the affected regions.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country had sent two military planes carrying aid materials and rescue workers.

The European Union said Saturday that humanitarian agencies had difficulties reaching the affected region, but they were urged to go, adding that it would offer financial assistance for the relief work.

(Xinhua News Agency October 9, 2005)

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