The US has promised to stand by Pakistan to help it rebuild after its devastating earthquake.The pledge came as the official death toll jumped by 16,000 to 73,000 and officials warned it was likely to rise further in the cold months ahead. US assessment teams will begin arriving in Pakistan this weekend to determine how much the country needs for reconstruction, based on reports by the World Bank and other international development agencies.
"We are committed not only to stand beside Pakistan at this time of tragedy, but we're committed to working with and standing with Pakistan in the long run," assistant secretary of state Anthony Wayne said in Washington.
He said Pakistan had estimated it needed Ј2.7 billion in "near-term" relief. He did not say how much the administration of President George Bush was prepared to contribute. Wayne said that so far the US had committed Ј87 million for relief and reconstruction and American citizens had donated an additional Ј22 million.
Pakistan's government announced earlier that the official death toll from the October 8 earthquake had jumped to 73,000, up from the previous official count of 57,597, bringing the central government's figures closer to the number reported by local officials.
Officials in Pakistan's part of Kashmir and North West Frontier Province say the 7.6-magnitude temblor killed at least 79,000 people in Pakistan. In Indian-controlled Kashmir, an additional 1,350 people died.
Federal relief commissioner Maj Gen Farooq Ahmed Khan said more than 69,000 people had severe injuries, with the total number of injured much higher.
Khan attributed the increase in deaths to bodies being recovered from the debris, and warned "there is likelihood of further increase" in the death toll.
Top United Nations relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland told PBS television that "there are many thousands, potentially tens of thousands, up there in the mountains that are wounded (that) we haven't got to". He said a "second wave of death" could come as people "freeze to death, starve to death, or just be sick because of infected water", reports Scotsman. I.L.