- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan — With snow falling in parts of Kashmir, harried relief workers tried to reach remote areas on foot yesterday as the United Nations’ emergency relief chief warned that time was running out for many survivors of South Asia’s massive earthquake.

U.N. Undersecretary General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland flew by helicopter to the Kashmiri city of Muzaffarabad, where he said millions of people urgently needed food, medicine, shelter and blankets. The United Nations estimates that 2 million people are homeless as the Himalayan region’s fierce winter approaches.

“I fear we are losing the race against the clock in the small villages” cut off by blocked roads, Mr. Egeland said. “I’ve never seen such devastation before.

“We are in the sixth day of operation, and every day, the scale of devastation is getting wider.”

The plea came after a magnitude 5.6 aftershock jolted parts of Pakistan early yesterday, forcing a rescue team to suspend efforts to save a trapped woman. She died before the rescuers returned to the precarious rubble.

The quake death toll was more than 35,000, and tens of thousands were injured. India has reported more than 1,350 deaths in its part of the disputed Kashmir region.

Carrying water, juice and milk, a relief team from Britain-based Plan International flew in a helicopter to villages in northern Mansehra district in North West Frontier Province and found death and misery.

“The whole valley is smelling awfully,” said Dr. Irfan Ahmed, the aid group’s health adviser. “People were hungry and panicking.

“Conditions are going from bad to worse. These people don’t have any shelter. Also, the school has collapsed, and the children were in those classrooms,” he said.

Dr. Ahmed said one elderly survivor was evacuated with a semiconscious 3-year-old boy who was barely moving, his skin cold and clammy.

ActionAid International in Pakistan said its workers tried to reach remote mountainous areas, but had to get out of their truck and walk in one area because of bad roads and traffic jams.

“The problem is that people are facing a shortage of time,” said Shafqat Munir, a spokesman for the group. “It’s cold, raining. People are without shelter. They have food, clothes, blankets, but tents are a problem.”

Earlier this week, the United Nations launched an international appeal for $272 million for six months of emergency aid to Pakistan. Yvette Stevens, a U.N. relief coordinator in Geneva, said about $165 million of aid had been pledged as of yesterday. About 30 nations have contributed relief supplies and manpower.

The U.S. military in Afghanistan loaded cargo planes with food, tarpaulins and other emergency aid to begin dropping by parachute over areas of Pakistan today, officials said.

An Indian plane has delivered aid to Pakistan despite the rivalry between the two countries, which have fought three wars, two of them over Kashmir.


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