Briton loses 17 relatives amid Balakot rubble

The British shopkeeper said his family was still trying to absorb the enormity of the tragedy.

"I asked my brother if he had gone to my sister's grandchildren's funeral and he said, 'No we were burying our own'," he said.

Mr Khan, 65, moved to England in the Sixties but has remained close to his family back in the Balakot valley of Pakistan's North-west Frontier.

When the news started showing pictures of the disaster, the father-of-five and his Swindon-based family failed initially to appreciate the scale.

"Then they starting showing the pictures again and again and we tried contacting people and we couldn't contact them. When I spoke to them they couldn't ... absorb what has happened," he said.

To date, he has discovered that 17 relatives have been lost in the village 30 miles from Mansehra.

The youngest victim was his sister's four-year-old granddaughter - killed with her mother when the wall of the house collapsed on them - while the oldest was Azim's 72-year-old cousin Shamas Khan.

He said he continued to receive heartbreaking phone calls from relatives. He fears the death toll for his family alone will continue to rise. "My sister had to walk 20 miles to get to a phone. She could hardly speak, she was so traumatised but she finally told me the number of relatives found dead so far is 17.

"I broke down when I heard. So many of the victims were children who were at school when they were buried alive," he said. "When we looked at the aerial picture of the area on Pakistani TV everything was flat ... The town has gone."

He said his relatives had nothing, not even a tent to sleep in. Many of them were angry at the government's response.

"People are saying that we have 80,000 soldiers protecting the Afghan border looking for the Taliban, why don't they help them? "The President and Prime Minister went to my town. They said to the people, 'Help is coming soon'. And the people shouted, 'Yes, when we have died'."

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