Frantic parents search for children trapped in rubble


With hands, picks and shovels, desperate parents struggled today to reach more than 850 children trapped in the rubble of two schools flattened yesterday's massive earthquake in northern Pakistan.

The frightened voices of trapped children and the anguished wails of parents accompanied the frantic work in the Balakot valley in the mountains of Northwest Frontier Province, one of the areas worst hit by Saturday morning's devastating quake.

"Save me, call my mother, call my father," came the faint voice of a boy, again and again, from the rubble of a government school in which residents said about 200 children were trapped.

"Bring out my child, bring out my child," his mother wailed, beating her chest as other parents and relatives pulled out the bodies of four children, bringing Sunday morning's toll to eight.

Residents of the scenic resort town of about 20,000 people estimated 2,500 people may have been killed there and in seven surrounding villages.

They complained they had received no support from police and emergency services.

Thousands were injured, mostly women and children who were in their homes at the time of the disaster while their men worked in the open.

In the Pakistani capital Islamabad, rescuers pulled two survivors from the ruins of an apartment complex.

At least two other people were believed to be clinging to life in the ruins of the Margala Towers blocks where expatriate workers and middle-class Pakistanis lived, rescue workers said.

In all, 35 bodies had been recovered while some 80 people had been rescued, President Pervez Musharraf said.

About 150 people were trapped, he said.

The tower blocks were the only buildings to collapse in Islamabad, about 95 km (60 miles) southwest of the epicentre of the 7.6 magnitude quake.

A boy and a woman were bought out alive some 24 hours after the quake hit, prompting cheers from rescue workers who said others were still alive under the rubble.

At least two badly mutilated bodies were recovered as rescuers tried to tunnel into a huge mound of debris in their search for survivors, one worker said.

"We heard screams of people last night but we haven't heard anything today," said rescue worker Liquat Ali Khan, who used to work as a plumber at the apartments.