500 Missing, 135 Dead in Pakistani Dam Disaster

Troops and rescue workers used fishing nets Saturday to pull bodies from floodwaters after a dam burst in southwestern Pakistan (search), killing at least 135 people, officials said. Elsewhere in Pakistan, weeklong rains and avalanches claimed the lives of about 143 people, emergency officials said.

The 485-foot-long Shakidor Dam (search) burst late Thursday near the remote Pasni village in Baluchistan (search) province, about 1,180 miles southwest of the capital, Islamabad. The torrent of water washed away homes, swept trucks out to sea and destroyed telephone lines, roads and eight bridges, according to officials and witnesses.

"So far, Pakistan army, navy and coast guards have pulled out 135 bodies from floodwaters in the districts of Pasni, Turbat and Awaran," said Mohammed Ilyas, a senior official at the provincial Crisis Control and Management Cell in Quetta.

He said about 500 people were still missing, while many were sheltering in mountains around Pasni, some 1,200 miles southwest of Islamabad, where heavy rains caused the dam to burst.

The military said some 500 people had been evacuated from remote areas nearby, but an army official who was part of the relief work said the death toll from the dam's water could be much higher than previously thought.

"I saw bodies floating in the floodwater around Pasni," the official said on condition of anonymity.

On Saturday, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf visited rain-hit areas of Baluchistan and reviewed relief efforts. Later, he said all those who had lost loved ones or property in the rains and floods would be compensated.

About 3,000 troops and 1,000 paramilitary forces backed by helicopters, coast guard cutters and C-130 transport planes traveled to Pasni with food, medicine and tents.

Flooding has damaged much of the major Karachi-Pasni highway making travel difficult, said an army officer in the area said on condition of anonymity.

Villages near the town of Uthal, about 60 miles from Pasni, were also flooded after the dam collapsed Thursday, but there was no word on casualties. Waters washed away crops and damaged homes in the village of Nano, said resident Ilyas Khan, 32.

Weeping on a road at Uthal, Allah Bakhsh, 45, said his 18-year old son was among dozens of people who could not leave their village after the water entered there Thursday. "I don't know what has happened to them," he sobbed.

Elsewhere in Pakistan, as many as 85 people were killed in the past week when roofs of their homes collapsed amid heavy rains and avalanches, according to the state-run Emergency Relief Agency.

Later Saturday, police reported that a roof collapsed due to rains in Sawat, killing three people and injuring nine others. Police official Ataullah Wazir added that 17 other people also died Saturday in Kohistan and other areas in the North West Frontier Province.

Troops and police also raced to two villages in Pakistan's part of the Himalayan territory of Kashmir on Saturday after avalanches buried several homes, killing at least 38 people, said Tahir Mahmood Quereshi, a senior police officer in the area.