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Deadly Earthquake Strikes South Asia


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Hundreds, possibly thousands of people have been killed by an earthquake in South Asia. Pakistani-administered Kashmir was the worst-affected area. The epicenter was 60 miles northeast of Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. Reports say that entire villages have been destroyed. We're joined from New Delhi by NPR's South Asia correspondent Philip Reeves.

Philip, thanks very much for being with us.

PHILIP REEVES reporting:

You're welcome.

SIMON: What can you tell us from reports you've gotten there in the Indian capital about the impact of this quake in Kashmir?

REEVES: Well, it seems that the regional capital on the Pakistani-controlled side of Kashmir, the town of Muzaffarabad, is among the worst-hit places. Houses have been brought crashing down, though, not only there but in villages, and not only by the quake itself, but by some very large landslides, some of which are extremely serious, according to some reports, although the picture, it must be said, is unclear. This is a remote area and getting reliable information from it is difficult. Pakistan's prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, says that in northern areas of Pakistan, places here the epicenter of the quake, places which border the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir, that in some areas there half the homes have been destroyed, so that does give you some idea of the severity of this.

And on the Indian-controlled side of Kashmir, reports of severe damage have been coming in to towns and villages there, particularly Uri, which is a town close to the line of control. It's badly hit, we're told. In fact, one report says that up to 130 people may have been killed there. And also in Baramulla, which is a large--by Kashmiri standards, a large town where houses, many houses are reported to have collapsed.

SIMON: And aftershocks have been strong, too, I gather?

REEVES: Yeah. There've been reports of four or five aftershocks and, of course, that's extremely traumatizing for people who were caught up in the first earthquake. They then, in some instances, left their buildings, some of them went out into fields only to find that the earthquakes appeared to be continuing. And so that has, in a sense, increased the mood of tension that appears to be emanating from that area. I think they've had a very bad day today in an area which is already badly traumatized by a long conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives over the last decade and a half. So it is, if you like, a sort of nightmare upon a nightmare that they've been living through for a long time.

SIMON: As you averred, of course, it's a heavily militarized area on both sides of the border because of the long-standing conflict between--disagreement, I guess we should say, sometimes, yes, even armed conflict between India and Pakistan, that would suggest, at the same time, there are a lot of military assets there that can be used for relief and recovery.

REEVES: Yeah, they're still there, although there has been a cease-fire in place. They're still, of course, there in large numbers and the army and air forces from India and Pakistan have been deployed. Helicopters have been scouring the area trying to assess the damage. That's no easy task in this kind of remote terrain. The first priority appears, among the authorities on both sides, to get--you know, to rescue people and to get them to shelter, and then to rebuild before the winter. This is very mountainous in parts, and it's gonna be difficult for anyone to survive without adequate shelters. They're gonna need new houses before the winter really bites.

SIMON: NPR's Philip Reeves in New Delhi, thank you very much.

REEVES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.