Mon, Jan 09, 2006 - Page 4 News List

UN quake aid may resume

AP , ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN

UN flights to two areas of Pakistan's quake-hit Kashmir region could resume next week, the UN said yesterday, a day after suspending air deliveries because dozens of survivors stormed two helicopters.

UN spokesman Ben Malor said both the world body and Pakistani authorities were investigating Friday's incident, and flights could resume in the next few days. The UN said on Saturday it canceled flights to Bana Mula and Leepa, both more than 120km southwest of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

More than 50 survivors forced the pilots of two UN helicopters to take them to Muzaffarabad and Abbottabad, a hub for quake relief activities.

"Our biggest hope is that it wouldn't be long at all," Malor said.

"This is just one isolated incident ... It doesn't merit a total suspension," he added.

Malor said in the meantime, other UN agencies were assisting victims in the area, and this was an incident "just involving helicopters." He didn't specify what agencies were involved, or what aid was being distributed.

The UN's refugee agency, meanwhile, said about 100 families have left their mountain villages in the past few days for lower ground to escape the biting Himalayan cold. Three days of storms have dumped waist-high snow on several villages, blocking roads and forcing the suspension of aid flights. Temperatures have dipped to minus 15oC.

"Generally, there hasn't been a mass movement of people down," said Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

"But another reason why people are not coming is that roads could be blocked from mudslides. The bad weather just keeps coming back," she added.

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