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Pakistan Interior Minister: 'Situation Is Very Grim'


Pakistani officials are frantically trying to reach shattered villages cut off from the rest of the country by Saturday's earthquake. Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao spoke with VOA's Kate Pound Dawson in Hong Kong just after leaving an emergency cabinet meeting held to discuss the rescue efforts. He describes a country that is struggling to cope with massive damage and loss of life.

DAWSON: "Can you describe the situation facing Pakistan, what sort of casualties and what sort of a job you face?"

SHERPAO: "So far the figures that we have, is 19,000 and 400 dead but it may increase by the hour and there are about 42,000 people injured.

Some of these areas are still cut off and we do not have any communications. There have been villages that have been wiped out. The situation in Azzad Jammu and Kashmir (Pakistani-controlled Kashmir) and the northern area and even in the federal capital, the situation is very grim in the sense that the losses are so much that it will take some time for us to really absorb this.

And we are thankful to our friends, the friendly countries who have responded and even the people of Pakistan themselves have responded so enthusiastically, that that has really given us the courage to take up this task in a very meticulous and very organized manner."

DAWSON: "Now sir, I understand that many roads are still closed to many of the isolated areas in the Kashmir region. How long will it take before you can start getting to those areas?"

SHERPAO: "We are first trying to open the major arteries, and then go the minor arteries and start opening those roads. … Because we cannot move more equipment because of the communication which has been disrupted, but whatever is available and the manpower, it is being used and that is the number one priority, to open the areas which are inaccessible."

DAWSON: "Do you feel that Pakistan is getting the international support that it needs? '

SHERPAO: "The international support would depend on how the situation is portrayed around the world. And that is what we want, the help from all the television networks and all the newspapers and the journalists. There have been so many journalists who have come to Pakistan, and we are facilitating them, taking them to the areas which have been affected so that the whole world, the whole humanity knows what has happened in Pakistan."

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