'Totally inadequate' help for thousands stranded by quake

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The Independent Online

Two weeks after the massive earthquake shook the Himalayan foothills of northern Pakistan, thousands of villagers are still sleeping rough.

Soldiers are hauling supplies for hamlets cut off on the farthest ridges and racing to construct helipads before heavy snow shrouds the mountains. Without shelter, 10,000 more people could die of exposure in the coming weeks. Three million are homeless.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf yesterday slammed the "totally inadequate" amount of foreign reconstruction aid pledged by the international community. In an interview with the BBC, he explained that $620m (£351m) had been promised to Pakistan - but that this sum did not come close to the $5bn needed to rebuild the 30,000 sq kilometres disaster zone.

The United Nations has warned that it has so far funded only about a quarter of its appeal.

The death toll is expected to climb to 100,000 as bodies are retrieved from the rubble of Jhelum and Neelum valleys. But the military estimates it will take six weeks before a route to Neelum is cleared.

In the Pakistani mountain village of Paras, the remaining 4,000 inhabitants now drink from a contaminated stream, and dysentery is becoming commonplace. There are only enough tents for women and children to share; men curl up on plastic sheets in a meadow below the wreckage of their former homes.

Attallah Shah, a teacher who saw his entire Arabic class buried alive under rubble, said: "Our biggest problem is no roofs. Our houses are dangerous so we sleep under the sky."

Turkey yesterday gave the faltering aid effort a major boost with a record pledge of $150m, making the country the single biggest donor nation. " We will do whatever is possible to assist you in this crisis," said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Help with the relief effort also came with an agreement between Nato ambassadors to dispatch military engineers, medics and troops to the region. The alliance said it was stepping up its airlift of aid to Pakistan from Europe, but that it continued to struggle to find helicopters needed to rush aid into the mountains of Kashmir and northern Pakistan. A fleet of 65 helicopters has already suffered three accidents - one a crash with six fatalities.

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