MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan – Along a line of broken storefronts, young men burrow into the rubble, scavenging cooking oil, rice and biscuits. Elsewhere, angry grocers wielding big sticks beat back looters seeking a different quarry: flour.
Hunger and desperation are forcing some victims of Pakistan's earthquake to turn to crime to feed themselves.
In a prosperous district of Muzaffarabad (search), where more than 11,000 people are believed to have died, the hunt for food turned ugly Monday.
Dozens of men, young and old, clashed with grocery shop owners, throwing stones and trading blows. The looters appeared to come off worse in the fighting and later fled. Some of them were bleeding from head wounds.
Across the street, others pilfered flour from undefended shops.
"Don't try and stop them, or they'll beat you!" one young man shouted in warning to an older bearded man who appeared to be a shopkeeper.
Saturday's magnitude-7.6 quake has wrecked this city of 600,000, the capital of Pakistan's portion of the Himalayan region of Kashmir (search). There is no electricity or running water, and the relief effort has scarcely started to help the legions of homeless.
Many residents are nursing injuries and have not had a square meal in three days.
On a street by the Jhelum River (search) near the city center, people dug holes into three or four collapsed shops and dragged out rice and other groceries.
"We haven't eaten anything for two or three days. The shops are closed and we haven't got anything from the government," said a 20-year-old man who declined to identify himself as he ferreted away stolen goods.
"We are desperate and hungry."
Residents also reported isolated robberies from gas stations and deserted homes.
With thousands of people buried beneath the rubble of destroyed homes, offices and schools, the hunt for survivors takes precedence over policing private property, officials said.
The most visible police presence is around a soccer field, where a major makeshift clinic has been set up and aid groups are congregating. Few police appear to be patrolling the streets.
Assistant city commissioner Masood-ur Rehman said 90 percent of the city, including all of its government buildings, were destroyed. He conceded that law and order was a problem.
"We are helpless. The city is out of order," he said.