MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (AP) – Shopkeepers clashed with looters and hungry families huddled under tents waiting for relief supplies Monday after Pakistan”s worst earthquake razed entire villages, buried roads in rubble and knocked out electricity. The death toll ranged from 20,000 to above 30,000 and was expected to rise.
The United Nations said over 2.5 million people have been left homeless by Saturday”s monster 7.6-magnitude quake, and doctors warned of an outbreak of disease unless more relief arrives soon.
With landslides blocking roads to many of the worst-hit areas, Pakistan”s army was flying food, water and medicine into the disaster zone. International relief efforts cranked into action, with the U.S. military sending eight helicopters from Afghanistan.
Most of the dead were in Pakistan”s mountainous north.
India reported more than 800 deaths, and Afghanistan reported four.
In the shattered streets of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan”s portion of divided Kashmir, an Associated Press reporter saw shopkeepers scuffle with people trying to break into shuttered businesses. They beat each other with sticks and threw stones, and some people suffered head wounds. No police were in the area.
Residents said looters also targeting deserted homes, and even gas stations. Survivors lacked food and water amid little sign of any official coordination of relief in the devastated city of 600,000, where at least 11,000 people died.
About 2,000 people huddled around camp fires through the cold night on a soccer field on the city”s university campus, where most buildings had collapsed and hundreds were feared buried in classrooms and dormitories. Soldiers burrowed into the concrete with shovels and iron bars.
"I don”t think anybody is alive in this pile of rubble," rescue worker Uzair Khan said. "But we have not lost hope."
On the soccer field, Mohammed Ullah Khan, 50, said a few biscuits handed out by relief workers were his only food for three days. His wife, who suffered a fractured leg, was wrapped in a yellow quilt beside him. Their three-story home had collapsed in the quake. His family of 10 people survived because they were on the top floor, which crashed to the ground.
"My children are now on a hillside, under the open sky, with nothing to eat," he said. A doctor, Iqbal Khan, said there was a serious risk of outbreaks of diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia if drinking water and other relief supplies do not arrive quickly.
"These people feel as if there is no one to take care of them," he said. The city had no electricity, and people collected water from a mountain stream.
Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said the earthquake was the country”s worst on record and appealed for urgent help, particularly cargo helicopters to reach remote areas.
U.S. President George W. Bush on Sunday promised cash and said he had told Musharraf "we want to help in any way we can."
India, a longtime rival of Pakistan, offered help in a gesture of cooperation. The nuclear-armed neighbors have been pursuing peace after fighting three wars since independence from British rule in 1947, two of them over the Kashmir region.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said his country”s death toll was 19,396 and was expected to rise. Senior officials in Pakistan”s portion of Kashmir put the death toll much higher. The top elected official in the region, Sardar Sikandar Hayat, said that more than 25,000 people had died there with "countless" injured. Tariq Mahmood, the province”s communications minister, put the toll at over 30,000. Troops "have not started relief work in remote villages where people are still buried in the rubble, and in some areas nobody is present to organize funerals for the dead," Mahmood said.
The quake was felt across a wide swath of South Asia, with damage spanning at least 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to Srinagar in northern Indian territory.
In Geneva, the United Nations urgently appealed for donations, including for at least 200,000 winterized tents.
On Monday, the first American plane with relief supplies arrived at an air base near the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, as international aid, including emergency rescue workers, began to flow in. Planes arrived from Turkey, Britain, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. Russia, China and Germany also offered assistance.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan prepared to send five Chinook transport helicopters and three Blackhawk helicopters to Pakistan on Monday to help ferry relief supplies.
"Pakistan is one of our closest allies in the war on terror and we want to help them in this time of crisis," said Sgt. Marina Evans, a U.S. military spokeswoman in Kabul. "The terrorists make us out as the infidels, but this is not true and we hope this mission will show that."
On the Indian side of the militarized Kashmir border, where at least 650 have died, hundreds of Kashmiris spent Sunday night outside in the cold after rumors of another temblor. Hundreds of mosques announced warnings of a further quake over loudspeakers, but none were reported.
"I don”t want to take a chance. What if there is a quake?" said Atiqa Bano, a 65-year-old housewife.