MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (AP) – Setting aside decades-old rivalries, Pakistan said it would accept earthquake aid from India, and a top rebel commander reportedly ordered the suspension of violence in earthquake-hit areas of Indian Kashmir. Authorities in New Delhi promised delivery “on a very urgent basis.”

Eight U.S. military helicopters from Afghanistan arrived in Islamabad with provisions, and Washington pledged up to $50 million in relief and reconstruction aid, U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said.

“The magnitude of this disaster is utterly overwhelming,” Crocker said. “We have underway the beginning of a very major relief effort.”

The United Nations said more than 2.5 million people were left homeless by Saturday’s magnitude-7.6 quake, and doctors warned of an outbreak of disease unless more relief arrives soon. The hardest-hit area was the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided between Pakistan and India.

Shopkeepers clashed with looters, and hungry families huddled under tents while waiting for relief supplies after Pakistan’s worst earthquake razed entire villages and buried roads in rubble. Death toll estimates ranged from 20,000 to 30,000.

British rescuers unearthed a man trapped in rubble for 54 hours, residents using their bare hands and crowbars freed two girls buried in a school for more than two days, and a woman and child were pulled to safety from a wrecked apartment building after 62 hours.

With landslides blocking roads to many of the worst-hit areas, Pakistan’s army airlifted food, water and medicine into the disaster zone. International relief efforts cranked into action, and an American plane full of relief supplies landed at an air base near Pakistan’s capital yesterday.

Most of the dead were in Pakistan’s mountainous north. India reported at least 865 deaths, but Home Secretary V.K. Duggal said it was not expected to rise much higher. Afghanistan reported four deaths.

With the situation dire, Pakistan set aside politics and said it would accept relief aid for earthquake victims from India. The nuclear-armed neighbors have been bitter rivals since gaining independence from Britain in 1947, fighting three wars, but they have taken steps to improve relations since last year.

India will send tents, food and medicine and other aid, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said in the capital, New Delhi.

The chief commander of the largest Kashmiri rebel group, the Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen, reportedly ordered a suspension of violence in devastated areas of India-controlled Kashmir.

“We have directed our cadres to halt their operations in the affected areas,” the private Kashmir News Service quoted Syed Salah-ud-Din as saying. The report could not be independently confirmed.

Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen is one of more than a dozen rebel groups fighting since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan.

On Sunday night, suspected Islamic militants killed 10 people, including four Hindus in quake-hit villages whose throats were slit, said senior police superintendent J.P. Singh.

In Balakot, a badly hit town in North West Frontier Province, townspeople broke through concrete to rescue two girls from a shattered school. Several men brushed dust from the clothes of one girl and gave her water.

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