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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 April 2006, 03:44 GMT 04:44 UK
Pakistan to move quake-hit town
Remains of Balakot
Much of Balakot was reduced to rubble
Pakistan is to rebuild the town of Balakot in a completely new location after it was razed by last year's Kashmir earthquake.

The town, home to 300,000 people before the quake, will be rebuilt in a safer location to modern design standards.

Pakistan also announced that it will shift focus from relief efforts to begin the rebuilding of devastated towns and villages on 7 April.

More than 73,000 people died and three million lost homes in the earthquake.

No site for the new town has yet been identified, Pakistan's Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad told a high-level meeting in Rawalpindi.

Balakot is currently located on a major geological fault line about 200km (120 miles) north of the country's capital, Islamabad.

The decisions taken today will help improve the quality of life of the survivors and raise hopes for a better future
Sheikh Rashid Ahmad
Pakistan information minister

Much of Balakot was reduced to rubble by the 7.6-magnitude quake that struck in October last year.

The government of the North-West Frontier Province has been asked to find a site.

Cash on offer

After the meeting, chaired by Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, Mr Rashid said the decision to move Balakot "will help improve the quality of life of the survivors and raise hopes for a better future".

Gen Musharraf told the meeting that rebuilding would have to include sturdily-built, quake-proof homes to minimise the risk of a repeat catastrophe.

Quake survivors currently living in tents and receiving food relief have received leaflets in recent days urging them to return to the sites of the shattered homes.

Many have already been told that they will only continue to receive aid if they return to rebuild their homes.

Owners of completely damaged homes will receive 75,000 rupees (720; $1,250) if they head home to rebuild. Those whose homes were partially damaged will receive 50,000 rupees, Pakistani news reported.


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