Officials: 54,000 Dead From Quake

A man sits in the debris of a collapsed building in Pakistan Sunday. Pakistan is concentrated on helping the millions left homeless and the tens of thousands that were injured, before the heavy winter comes.
Officials on Sunday sharply raised estimates of the dead from Pakistan's monster quake to more than 54,000, while bad weather dumped more misery on hundreds of thousands of homeless survivors.

Twenty percent of the villages in the quake zone remained cut off eight days after the temblor turned the lush mountainsides of the Himalayas into a death trap.

Two strong aftershocks shook the area early Monday morning, including one with a magnitude of 4.5, but there was no immediate report of damage. There have been hundreds of aftershocks since the main 7.6-magnitude earthquake on Oct. 8, and experts say they could continue for months.

At least 40,000 people in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir died in the earthquake, said a spokesman for Sikandar Hayat Khan, the prime minister of the region. That would push the total death toll in the disaster to more than 54,000, including more than 13,000 in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province and about 1,350 in the part of divided Kashmir that India controls.

"The death toll is not less than 40,000," said Abdul Khaliq Wasi, spokesman for Khan. He said officials in Kashmir had not counted all the bodies, and described the 40,000 figure as "a closest estimate."

Khan earlier had told Pakistan's Geo television the toll could eventually be higher still.

"Some people fear that the death toll could be 100,000 and they may be right," he said.

Confirmation of a final death toll will be difficult because many bodies are buried beneath the rubble.

"The United Nations is still operating on the government's official numbers," said Andrew MacLeod, Humanitarian Affairs officer with the U.N. Coordination and Assessment Team. "There are regions that still have not been reached, and the death toll is not final."

Central government officials in Islamabad said earlier Monday that the confirmed casualty toll from the earthquake was 39,422 dead and 65,038 injured.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said a polio-stricken infant girl was rescued Sunday from the rubble of her home in the village of Sanger near Balakot eight days after the earthquake. But the account of an army official in Balakot, Maj. Majid Jahangir, cast doubt on the story.

Jahangir said a polio-stricken girl of 10 or 11 years old was unable to walk and had been carried from the village by soldiers, but said she had not been buried in the rubble.

Visiting a hospital in Islamabad, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said some 1,000 injured children had been evacuated from the region for medical help, primarily to the capital.