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Germany

Quake Death Toll Rises as Aid Floods in

International aid and rescue teams continue to poor into the regions around northeast Pakistan and beyond which were devastated by the Oct. 8 earthquake. Officials suggest the death toll could be far worse than expected.

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Survivors await help as conditions threaten to take more lives

Between 30,000 and 40,000 people died in the massive earthquake that hit Pakistan at the weekend, UNICEF and a senior government official said Monday.

"We have been told by the government that 30,000 to 40,000 died," in the quake on Saturday, UNICEF spokeswoman Julia Spry Leverton told AFP in the capital Islamabad.

"Between 30 to 40,000 people have died in Pakistan. 60,000 plus are injured," a senior government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Rescuers were continuing the struggle to reach the mountains of northeast Pakistan where thousands of cold and wet earthquake survivors spent a second night in the open. The roads leading into Pakistani-controlled Kashmir -- the area worst affected by Saturday's 7.6 magnitude quake -- were blocked by landslides. Power and water supplies have been cut off, and hospitals destroyed.

In many places people dug through the night with their bare hands in an often futile attempt to reach friends and relatives trapped in the rubble, and anger started to build as help failed to arrive.

"Our town has been turned into a heap of rubble and so many people have died but there is absolutely no help in the past two days," said Mohammad Zaheer, a survivor in the shattered town of Balakot. "We survived the earthquake but now we realize we will die of hunger and cold."

The United Nations said more helicopters were needed urgently to bring rescue equipment and aid to stricken villages high in the Himalayas. "We are seeing enormous suffering and facing enormous challenges," Jan Egeland, UN coordinator of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, told AFP. "We're talking about millions affected by this."

He said Pakistan had deployed its own substantial fleet of helicopters to search for survivors but the scale of the disaster required more choppers and small fixed-wing aircraft.

In Berlin, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Germany had immediately released one million euros ($1.2 million) to be made available to Pakistani authorities through Berlin's embassy in Islamabad. Humanitarian organizations have already begun calling for donations, and the German government is working closely with groups such as the Red Cross to organize relief efforts in the disaster zone.

The German Red Cross will be working with the Pakistani Red Crescent to bring relief to quake-hit areas, and Berlin is in contact with the United Nations with regard to further humanitarian action, Fischer said, adding that German officials were also in touch with counterparts in Pakistan and India to discuss rapid aid.

At the same time, German aid organizations appealed for donations. Catholic aid organization Caritas said its workers had begun rescuing victims while other groups were ready to dispatch teams to the region.

Germany's leaders were among the world figures who sent condolences to the stricken regions. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder told Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Germany stood by them during this difficult time. President Horst Köhler said he was "shaken" to learn of the devastation from the quake that struck Saturday.

The rest of Europe also responded swiftly to Saturday's devastating earthquake, pledging emergency funds, aid and search-and-rescue equipment as well as condolences for the victims.

The European Union's executive arm earmarked up to three million euros, while national governments scrambled to send help. "We are all hoping that the news does not get steadily worse ... but we are fearful that the casualty figures may mount," said EU Aid Commissioner Louis Michel. "We can already say that it’s ... a major disaster," said an EU spokesman added.

The French government said it was sending a 25-member emergency rescue team, along with sniffer dogs and cutting material, while Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy pledged in a statement to provide "any assistance which Pakistan could need."

"France is standing by Pakistan in this painful trial," said President Jacques Chirac in a message of support to his Pakistani counterpart Pervez Musharraf.

In Geneva a seven-man UN team left for Islamabad to set up a "coordination and evaluation team" for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Turkey, a frequent victim of earthquakes which have killed many thousands of people, also offered aid to fellow Muslim country Pakistan, Anatolia news agency reported, quoting Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

"We are ready to provide every sort of help," Gul said, adding that Ankara had a "duty" to do so. Turkish civil defense and Red Crescent teams, experienced in working in earthquake zones, were placed on the alert.

Turkey's neighbor Greece, which also suffers almost daily tremors, pledged to send a team of specialists including search and rescue experts, while Russia also voiced its solidarity with the countries battling to cope with the crisis.

The Irish government pledged an initial one million euros to assist with immediate needs such as food, shelter and other basic requirements. Several British search and rescue teams were expected to depart by the end of Saturday.

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