Casualties face agonising journey to get treatment

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Then they heard a government announcement on the radio - one of the few things still working in the village - asking people to bring their wounded out of the hills to the town of Garhi Dopatta, where they could be airlifted to hospital by helicopter. Four of the men from the family put Ms Jan on a plank of wood salvaged from the ruins, and carried her the 20km (12 miles) down the mountainside to Garhi Dopatta on their shoulders.

As the roads in Pakistani-administered Kashmir are finally cleared of landslides, more than a week after the earthquake which has killed at least 58,000, villagers are streaming down from the mountains in search of help.

They are bringing with them harrowing storiesof how they were trapped helpless in the mountains.

Kalim Gilani helped to carry his brother Isra 10km down from the village of Kakar Wara. His brother has a broken leg. Mr Gilani is a professional nurse, but he was powerless to help even his own brother because there were no medical supplies in the village. "I couldn't even give him painkillers," he said.

The villagers are used to driving down to the town for medical supplies, but the road was blocked by landslides. "There were so many injured," said Mr Gilani. "All I could do was clean their wounds with Dettol and wrap them in home-made bandages. We made splints out of pieces of wood."

Mr Gilani's brother had to sleep in a makeshift shelter the family made by propping bits of aluminium roofing salvaged from their home on a makeshift wooden frame, in constant pain from his leg. The basic shelter could not keep out the rain.

"I am a volunteer with the Red Crescent, but I couldn't do anything. I couldn't even help my own brother, how could I help other people? You can imagine how it feels to be a nurse and not to be able to help people," said Mr Gilani.

This is the Muzaffarabad-Srinagar highway, which is slowly opening up town by town, village by village as the landslides are cleared. They had just opened it up to the next village, Sarran, and thousands of desperate villagers descended on the aid trucks as they arrived. Soldiers tried to keep order, but villagers pushed their way through, fighting over supplies.

Badar Munir is headmaster at a local school. But on the day of the earthquake he was on leave. He still has not been able to reach his school because it is beyond landslides that have not been cleared. But he heard from survivors who managed to struggle out that the school collapsed and five children died, as well as his deputy. "It is the schools that were hit worst, because the government built them with cheap construction materials," he said.

Two of Mr Munir's own children and his mother died in the earthquake. He was injured in the head by falling rubble. "I'm sorry," he said, "I cannot describe things to you properly. My head is not quite right since the quake."

* The Pakistani high commission in London has set up two 24-hour helplines (020 7664 9284 or 07960 277 670) to provide information to those seeking details of how the earthquake has affected friends and family.

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