In what is a vital breakthrough in efforts to get aid to the disaster zone after Saturday’s earthquake in South Asia, roads leading to the stricken areas are finally being cleared. The 7.6 magnitude earthquake has killed more than 20,000 people, according to Pakistan’s government. Officials in Pakistani Kashmir and North West Frontier Province say the final toll could be close to 40,000.Donor nations are rushing to provide help to victims. The United States has sent helicopters from neighbouring Afghanistan. Aid agencies say up to four million people could be left homeless. Britain, which has a large Pakistani community, has already sent rescue teams to the quake region. And, after the strongest earthquake in south Asia for a century, help is also being offered by NATO.
Pakistan has said it will accept relief assistance from its old rival India. It has however ruled out allowing Indian troops onto its territory to carry out joint relief work in the divided Kashmir region. India is dealing with a humanitarian catastrophe of its own. It is feared the earthquake could have claimed the lives of up to 2,000 people on its side of the border.