Relief efforts pick up in Indian-held Kashmir12/10/2005 - 07:35:35
Air force helicopters today resumed drops 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 torrential rains and snow.
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 1,460 in Indian-controlled Kashmir. It damaged 32,000 houses, 15,000 of them beyond repair.
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 up to the clear blue sky.
Rafiq, a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Liberation Front – a separatist group that favours 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 part of Kashmir.
India was to deliver nearly 25 tons of aid for Pakistan by a transport plane early today, said Mahesh Upasani, the Indian air force spokesman.
Also today, 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 nine feet of rubble. The bridge itself also collapsed in the earthquake.
Jittery residents were shaken awake late yesterday 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.
Yesterday, 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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