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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 October 2005, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Quake-hit Kashmir linked by phone
Bridge across the Neelum river in Muzaffarabad
Moves are on to open the Line of Control to divided families
India has restored telephone links between Indian and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir to enable people to speak to their relatives after the earthquake.

The service was cut 15 years ago after militants took up arms against India.

Both countries are also considering opening the Line of Control, which divides the disputed territory, to allow families on either side to cross.

Meanwhile, Pakistan raised its death toll to nearly 48,000, and aftershocks have caused more landslides and panic.

Mukhtiar Ahmad of Jammu was among the first to put a call through to his family in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, only to learn the tragic news that 17 of his relatives had been killed in the earthquake.

I have been able to call my son in Muzaffarabad through a trunk call. The service is a big relief
Srinagar resident Abdul Aziz

India has set up four centres in Jammu, Srinagar, Tangdar and Uri and telephone calls are being offered free of charge.

The 24-hour line will run for a fortnight. People can also dial Muzaffarabad from their homes through an operator facility by dialling 186.

The move has been widely welcomed by Kashmiris.

"This service will bring immense relief to the thousands of people who have their relatives across the Line of Control and are desperate to know about their welfare." Kashmiri politician Mehbooba Mufti is quoted as saying by AFP.

Aftershock panic

Islamabad's revised casualty figure of 47,723 - up by more than 6,000 - refers to Pakistan-administered Kashmir and North-West Frontier Province.

Heavy duty tent designed for long-term use by a single family
PVC groundsheet sewn onto the sides for windproofing and to retain warmth
Some types are designed to accommodate cooking stoves
ICRC estimates that 30,000 such tents are required in Pakistan

Local officials say the number is far higher.

"The injured are over 67,000," disaster response chief Maj Gen Farooq Ahmad Khan told reporters in Islamabad, adding he expected the number of dead to rise.

At least 1,400 others died in Indian-administered Kashmir, officials say.

Many of the survivors are in remote mountains or deep valleys with no medical help available.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in the Jhelum Valley in Pakistan-administered Kashmir says in a single day 12,000 people collected aid from one army camp alone.

Thousands queued for tents but only hundreds were available, she says.

Doctors in the region say tens of thousands have still to receive medical treatment.

LoC moves

Earlier on Wednesday, two aftershocks of high intensity resulted in landslides and temporarily disrupted relief work in the earthquake-affected areas of Pakistan and on either side of the de facto border in Kashmir.

Disasters Emergency Committee (UK)
World Food Programme
Kashmir International Relief Fund
Red Cross/ Red Crescent

The tremors registered 5.8 and 5.4 on the Richter scale and could be felt even in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, forcing a number of schools to be closed and bringing people out into the open.

"Aftershocks continue to traumatise the survivors... and have triggered fresh landslides in already remote and high altitude areas," the UN Emergency Response Centre in Islamabad said.

Across the Line of Control, people rushed out of their houses in Srinagar and other towns in Indian-administered Kashmir.

On Monday, India welcomed Pakistan's offer to open the LoC to help families find loved ones after the 8 October earthquake.

"This is in line with India's advocacy of greater movement across the LoC," Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had said the move would also boost reconstruction efforts.

India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir and have fought two wars over it since independence, but began peace talks last year.

The BBC's Aamer Ahmed Khan in Karachi says that opening up the LoC could make a huge difference to the relief effort.

Our correspondent says much anger has been directed at Gen Musharraf's government after an Indian offer to deliver aid in helicopters foundered because Islamabad insisted on the pilots being Pakistani.

* Many roads in the affected area are damaged and/or impassable


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