Four days after a devastative earthquake which strike northern Pakistan on Saturday, pelting hail and rain, along with a shortage of helicopters, prevented rescuers from reaching thousands of survivors still trapped in isolated Himalayan villages on Tuesday, Pakistani officials said.
Rescuers have not yet reached "hundreds of villages," Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, the spokesman for the Pakistani Army, told reporters on Tuesday. Eight American military helicopters joined the relief efforts, and 40 heavy-lift helicopters were promised to ferry food, water, medical supplies and tents.
Bad weather, however, grounded flights on Tuesday afternoon.
A total of 34 Pakistani military and civilian helicopters are involved in the rescue effort, according to Pakistani military officials - virtually every helicopter in the impoverished nation of 150 million people, and many more are needed. "There are many areas we haven't been able to reach," said General Sultan.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan put the death toll at 23,000, up from an estimated 20,000 the day before. Of the 51,000 people injured in the earthquake, only 3,110 have been evacuated by helicopter, according to Pakistani officials.
A vast majority of casualties are in Kashmir, the Himalayan region at the heart of a longstanding territorial dispute between Pakistan and India. Across the disputed Line of Control, on the Indian-controlled side, the death toll rose sharply Tuesday to an estimated 1,300. Rescue workers found the bodies of 60 road workers in a bus crushed by a landslide on a highway there, The Associated Press reported, reports the New York Times.
Many hospitals were damaged and health workers injured or killed in the quake, the World Health Organization said as it appealed for $21.7 million in aid on Tuesday.
Help is needed for emergency surgery, while safe food and water is essential to prevent diarrhoeal diseases spreading among survivors living in crowded, unsanitary shelters, the WHO said.
Antibiotics to treat pneumonia, another major risk, is also a priority as victims camp outdoors in freezing overnight temperatures.
Medical teams from throughout Pakistan and the world have rushed into the earthquake zone to treat injuries and prevent life-threatening infections. (Racing to the zone)
But as Tuesday came to a close, rain, wind and cold hindered relief efforts in the aftermath of the 7.6-magnitude earthquake, informs CNN.