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Police clash with quake refugees

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan — Pakistani police used bamboo canes and rifle butts to break up a march Friday by earthquake survivors protesting eviction from a makeshift refugee camp. An injured man was left lying by the road.

Police said they made 10 arrests but denied they were forcing people to leave. Witnesses, however, said police arrived early Friday at the Jalalabad Garden camp in a public park, telling quake victims to leave by 5 p.m.

"They said they would come with bulldozers, so we protested," said Salim Shah, the man left lying injured by the road after being beaten. "We have no other place to go." Quake survivors have been setting up informal camps all over the city, most of them lacking adequate sanitation and considered to constitute a public health risk.

The violence broke out as about 200 people marched through a street in central Muzaffarabad, one of the towns hit hardest by the Oct. 8 magnitude 7.6 temblor.

About 50 officers blocked their way, then began dispersing the crowd. Several men were dragged away.

Senior superintendent of the Muzaffarabad police, Yasin Qureshi, denied there were any orders to clear the camp. "We have not been directed to get these people out of here," Qureshi said.

The quake that was centered in the divided Kashmir region killed about 86,000 people in Pakistani territory and another 1,350 in India, destroying bridges, roads and the homes of more than 3 million people, along with hospitals, government offices and more than 10,000 schools.

The United Nations says it needs $550 million in emergency aid for quake victims, but donors have pledged only $131 million. By comparison, a total of $13.5 billion was pledged to victims of Asia's Dec. 26 tsunami.

A month after quake victims started moving to tent villages, poor sanitation and overcrowding have sparked fears of infectious diseases.

UNICEF is launching a two-week campaign starting today to immunize 800,000 children in the quake zone up to age 15 from diseases including measles, polio, diphtheria and tetanus.

Four cases of diphtheria have been reported in the quake zone, but only one confirmed — a 4-year old boy who died in hospital in Islamabad.


Contributing: Matthew Pennington