By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - Rescuers backed by soldiers on Wednesday were struggling to negotiate with collapsed roads and bridges, to reach remote areas in the earthquake-hit Pakistani-administered Kashmir, also known as Azad Kashmir, local media and officials reported.
Talking to Anadolu Agency, Information Minister of Azad Kashmir Mushtaq Minhas, however, said the rescue missions using army aviation helicopters, have almost reached to all the affected regions.
He expected that the rescue mission would be completed by next few hours, to pave way for relief operations.
A day after the 5.8 magnitude earthquake jolted the broad swaths of country's north northwest and Pakistani-administered Kashmir known as Azad Kashmir, authorities have confirmed death of 25 people so far, even as the search-and- rescue operations resumed early Wednesday.
Minhas said so far 500 injured people have been brought to hospitals.
He said rescuers were moving to far-flung villages to fund out injured or trapped people in Mirpur district of Azad Kashmir, bordering Pakistani province of Punjab and Riasi district of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.
While the minister confirmed 25 deaths, a report submitted to the Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir Raja Farooq Haider Khan, by his Home Ministry has put the death toll at 26.
"Rescue operations are about to be completed. Now, relief operation will begin to provide shelter to residents, whose homes have been damaged by the earthquake," the minister said.
He said food and water has been arranged to be distributed in the remote areas, that are still disconnected from Mirpur city, due to destruction of roads.
Jatlaan, a small town located 15 kilometers (9.5 miles) from Mirpur city, is the worst-hit, where tremors tore apart a large portion of main highway and cracked various other roads.
Scores of houses, schools, mosques and other infrastructure were fully or partially damaged, a spokesperson for the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), a state- run coordination agency told Pakistani TV channel Geo News.
The powerful earthquake also pulled utility poles in and around Mirpur district, apart from triggering landslides in several hilly places. Power Ministry personnel were trying to restore electricity knocked out by tremors in several areas, the channel reported.
Federal Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporters that power supply to most of earthquake hit areas has been restored.
Zafeer Baba, a local journalist told Anadolu Agency on telephone that over 95% of the tremor-hit area has been cleared by the rescue teams.
In October 2005, a massive earthquake killed over 80,000 people in Azad Kashmir and the neighboring Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The earthquake was also felt in Indian-administered Kashmir and several parts of northern India, including Jammu and Kashmir.
There have been no reports of casualties or property damages in India so far.
*Islamuddulin Sajid in Islamabad also contributed to this story
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Pakistan: Quake death toll rises to 25, 500 injured
By Aamir Latif