MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan, AP -An aftershock jolted parts of Pakistan on Thursday, panicking hungry, homeless survivors of last weekend”s devastating earthquake and forcing rescuers to suspend efforts to save a trapped woman, who died overnight.
The 5.6-magnitude aftershock was centered 85 miles north of Islamabad, near the epicenter of Saturday”s 7.6-magnitude quake that demolished whole towns, mostly in the Himalayan region of Kashmir. The quake Thursday shook buildings, but there was no significant damage in an already demolished region.
"There was a lot of panic. People were scared. Even those who were sleeping in tents came out. Everybody was crying," said Nisar Abbasi, 36, an accountant camping on the lawn of his destroyed home in Muzaffarabad, a badly hit city in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.
A 22-year-old woman trapped in the rubble in Muzaffarabad died Thursday after the aftershock disrupted efforts to rescue her, rescuers and witnesses said.
British, German and Turkish teams had worked until 2 a.m., trying to extract the woman after a sniffer dog detected her in the debris. But they were forced to suspend their efforts for their own safety when the aftershock shifted the building in which they were working.
When the rescuers returned after daybreak, the sniffer dog whined, indicating that it had detected the smell of a corpse. Some rescue workers wept.
"It was a very difficult decision to leave a living person and I had a responsibility to my team. It could have meant their death," said Steff Hopkins, a British team leader.
There have been dozens of aftershocks since the main quake, including a 6.2-magnitude temblor.
"They will go on for months, possibly years," said Don Blakeman, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey”s National Earthquake Information Center.
The U.N.”s emergency relief chief Jan Egeland, who flew by helicopter to Muzaffarabad on Thursday to assess relief efforts, said he fears that "we are losing the race against the clock in the small villages" cut off by blocked roads.
About a dozen men worked through the night in Islamabad looking for survivors from a 10-story apartment building that collapsed in the quake, the only serious damage in Pakistan”s capital.
On Thursday morning, they pulled out two bodies and covered them in burial shrouds. A total of 40 bodies have been recovered from the building.
Hope of finding survivors dwindled in Muzaffarabad, where Britain”s Department for International Development was pulling out its team of 60 search and rescue workers, said Rob Holden, the team leader for U.N. disaster assessment and coordination, which is overseeing the overall rescue effort.
"No one is giving up but it is the acceptance that the actual real chances of finding someone alive are almost nil, so we don”t need all the specialist international teams," Holden said, adding that there are still 18 international teams in the region.
A Russian team in Muzaffarabad on Wednesday rescued a 5-year-old girl who had been trapped for nearly 100 hours in the rubble.
Trucks and helicopters with aid from dozens of countries choked the roads up to the crumbling towns of Kashmir, but the hungry and the homeless in many hard-hit areas were still in desperate straits five days after the temblor struck.
The death toll was believed to be more than 35,000, and tens of thousands were injured.
"No country is ready for such a disaster," President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Wednesday. He acknowledged initial delays in his government”s response but said the relief operation was now in full swing.
German, Afghan, Pakistani and U.S. helicopters delivered tents, blankets and medical equipment, and brought back dozens of badly injured people on each return flight.
Eight U.S. helicopters flew 53 sorties to the affected region on Wednesday, transporting more than 1,000 people — rescue workers in, and injured Pakistanis out, said Lt. Col. Jerry O”Hara, spokesman for the U.S. base at Bagram, Afghanistan, where the helicopters are based. They also brought in 123,000 pounds of supplies and equipment, he said.
The United Nations estimated some 4 million people were affected, including 2 million who lost homes, and warned that measles and other diseases could break out.