Thu, Jan 05, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Quake relief flights resume

AFP , MUZAFFARABAD, PAKISTAN

Helicopters resumed relief flights in earthquake-ravaged Pakistan yesterday after three days of rain and snow, as authorities said many survivors were descending from the mountains.

The choppers were delivering food and other vital supplies to remote villages in the Himalayan heights of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and North West Frontier Province, although roads remained blocked.

"Relief work has resumed, the helicopters started sorties to drop relief goods to the quake-hit areas early yesterday," said Pakistan Army spokesman Farooq Nasir.

As sun brought relief from sub-zero temperatures survivors repaired their tents and shopped in the dilapidated markets of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir.

"Thank God, the weather is clear today and helicopters are flying sorties," said Shahid Hasan, the police chief of Pakistani Kashmir. "But our main thrust is to keep the road network open."

Officials said there was no shortage of food in towns and cities as stocks had already been built up in the region, which was hit by a giant quake on Oct. 8 that killed more than 73,000 people and made 3.5 million homeless.

Survivors living in refugee camps in Muzaffarabad and other towns expressed relief that the weather had cleared, after the snow and rain caused a number of tents to collapse in recent days.

"Thanks to Allah that the rains have stopped, which had amplified all our miseries," said quake survivor Ali Ahmed, 48, while standing outside his damp, sagging tent.

However the meteorological department said a cold snap following the snowfall was likely to grip quake-hit areas for the next three to five days.

Aid agencies have warned that most of the hundreds of thousands of tents being used are not up to the winter weather.

The UN refugee agency said it was still dealing with people who had come down from the devastated Neelum Valley just outside Muzaffarabad, after setting up new camps for them on Tuesday.

"Five blankets and plastic sheets have been provided to each person," said Morgan Morrism, senior coordinator of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

"We are worried for the children, who cannot resist this chilly weather," said Hafeez, a 39-year-old who is living in Muzaffarabad's Thuri tent camp.

British army engineers meanwhile built winter shelters for survivors in the isolated village of Dhal Khazian and were now combining six shelters to construct a school for 250 girls, NATO said yesterday in a press release.

The troops, who are specially trained for cold weather and mountain environments, have been working above the snow-line for three to four nights at a time, it said.

"It is not pleasant to be working and living in this sort of weather, but that is why we are here," said the troop commander.

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