10/28/2005, 00.00
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Helicopters and money to fly them are needed to help Kashmir

Caritas Pakistan emphasises UN appeal: Without more helicopters many more people stuck in the mountains will die. Caritas India is ready to help people on the other side of the border.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – "Helicopters have become indispensable. Without them we cannot reach mountain villages that are isolated but where thousands of people live," said Verenia Keet, a Caritas official in Pakistan. "The UN has made a new appeal" to that effect.

This time, the world organisation has asked for "the necessary money to pay for fuel and maintenance costs of the fleet of helicopters that are needed to get into Kashmir".

"We need money to fly our helicopters," said Jan Vandemorteele, UN humanitarian aid Coordinator in Pakistan, "because without them we'll have to scale back our operations and more people will die."

"We can continue flying only for another seven days," said Michael Jones, FAO representative, "after which we won't be able to distribute food and tents to the villages."

Roads that lead to isolated areas in the mountains are "already obstructed by ice and threatened by landslides".

In 20 days of relief operations Caritas Pakistan has distributed 764 tents, each for ten people, in the mountain villages of Labarkot, Potha, Dilola, Debrian, Nara, Hillkot e Mandr.

Caritas India said it was ready to help its Pakistani counterpart as governments on both sides of the border discuss whether to open it.

Fr Varghese Mattamana, Assistant Executive Director of Caritas India, said: ""The request was for assisting two villages which are very close to the border and easily accessible from the Indian side. From our side we are willing but we have to see the government position and [get] its permission".

The quake that hit Pakistan, India and Afghanistan on October 8 killed more than 55,000 people, wounded 78,000 and made homeless another 3.3 million.

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