Thu, Oct 13, 2005 - Page 4 News List

South Asia Quake: India restarts rescue after snow delay

TORRENTIAL RAIN Terrible weather conditions halted the relief efforts in Indian-controlled Kashmir and also took their toll on the hundreds of homeless survivors


Kashmiris place clothes for donation to earthquake victims outside a local mosque in Srinagar, India, yesterday. Saturday's 7.6 magnitude quake killed at least 1,555 people in India's portion of Kashmir with 95 more bodies being recovered, including seven children who died of hypothermia, officials said.


Air force helicopters resumed drops yesterday of urgently needed relief supplies to the survivors of the weekend earthquake in inaccessible areas of Indian Kashmir, after nearly 12 hours of disruption caused by heavy rains and snow, officials said.

As the weather cleared, trucks started snaking their way along the twisting Himalayan roads carrying tents, blankets, medicines, rice and flour for the destitute villagers, said Vijay Bakaya, the top official of Jammu-Kashmir state.

Saturday's 7.6-magnitude quake killed at least 1,555 people in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The temblor damaged 42,720 houses and partially damaged 74,000 more, said Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed.

Sayeed said yesterday that 95 more bodies had been recovered, including seven children who died of hypothermia, he said.

The heavy rains had caused further landslides, closing roads and making conditions too dangerous for relief work.

"There was too much mud, our vehicles were sliding on the road ... but today is better," said Mohammed Rafiq, pointing to the clear sky.

Rafiq, a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Liberation Front -- a separatist group that favors independence from India -- and other members of his group were handing out clothes and shoes to women and children in the village of Salamabad, near the cease-fire line in the divided region.

The worst hit Uri and Tangdar areas are both close to the line, known as the Line of Control, that splits Kashmir between rivals India and Pakistan.

The quake caused much greater destruction in the Pakistani Kashmir. The official Pakistani death toll stood at 23,000, with some estimating it could be twice as high.

India was to deliver nearly 25 tons of aid to Pakistan by a transport plane early yesterday, said Mahesh Upasani, the Indian air force spokesman.

Also yesterday, workers with heavy earthmovers were slowly clearing the road that leads to the Peace Bridge, which connects the two Kashmirs. In some areas the road is buried under more than 3m of rubble. The bridge itself also collapsed in the earthquake.

Jittery residents were shaken awake late on Tuesday by an aftershock that rocked the area.

"I felt the earth start to move, my heart was very fast," said Ajaz Ahmad, 26, from the village of Gowalta. "I started to cry," he said.

India's meteorological office said it was a 5-magnitude shock. There were no reports of injuries or damage.

On Tuesday, India's prime minister toured the worst-hit areas of Uri and Tangdar and vowed to spare no expense in helping the region recover from the earthquake.

"Whatever is needed to rehabilitate, whatever is needed for relief, the central government stands committed to help," said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir.

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