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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 October 2005, 17:58 GMT 18:58 UK
NI rescuer tells of quake horror
Neil Powell
Neil and his team were transported by helicopter to the zone
A County Down dog handler has been describing how he joined the rescue operation after the Kashmir earthquake.

Neil Powell said relatives were constantly asking him to bring his dog Charcoal and help find missing people.

Mr Powell was involved in the search of a girls' school which had 500 children in it while parents waited for news, but found nothing.

However, during one operation they did manage to find a man alive who had been buried for three days.

Mr Powell said the British teams saved 27 people in conditions that were unimaginable. He has just returned home.

"We were out to the area very quickly and we were taken by helicopter to Muzaffarabad," he said.

"When we got there we felt there was a fairly lengthy delay in allowing us to go out to the various sites to search.

Charcoal found a man trapped under rubble

"There were concerns that we were at risk from local people because we were non-Muslim, but it was quite the opposite - the people were absolutely brilliant."

He said it was very frustrating to see military vehicles "sitting around in the compounds doing nothing".

Neil and his team searched collapsed buildings for survivors.

"We were able to finally find at least one person alive and get him out," he said.

The authorities in the devastated region were overwhelmed by the enormity of the disaster, said Neil.

"It is estimated 46,000 people were killed in just that area alone.

The man who we took out actually had his uncle and two other friends dead beside him for three days
Neil Powell

"But we spent one whole day sitting around doing nothing because nobody in the Pakastani authorities would task the teams.

"Fire teams from four different areas in the UK were sitting with all their cutting equipment and lifting equipment - all skilful people being wasted - and people dying unnecessarily."

He said there were bodies lying in every area they encountered.

"The man who we took out actually had his uncle and two other friends dead beside him for three days."

As many as 54,000 people may have died in the quake, local officials now say.

Many of the survivors are in remote mountains or deep valleys, and helicopter is the only way to reach them.

Neil's dog Charcoal will now have to spend six months in quarantine.

"This is an absolutely ridiculous legal requirement," he said.

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

See air drops of relief aid to remote villages

Turkish Press Pakistan pushes aid effort, UN says not enough tents in world - 3 hrs ago
Chicago Sun-Times Estimated quake death roll rises to 54,000 - 8 hrs ago
USA Today Torrential rains halt relief flights into quake-hit zone - 67 hrs ago
Los Angeles TimesRain Halts Relief Flights Into Kashmir - 71 hrs ago
ABCNEWS.com Aid groups set up base for massive Pakistan task - 16 Oct 2005
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