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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 October 2005, 19:08 GMT 20:08 UK
Tent cities for quake survivors
An elderly Kashmiri woman sits in a tent in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan
The many thousands of homeless urgently need tents and blankets

Pakistan is to set up tent cities to shelter hundreds of thousands of people made homeless by last week's earthquake that killed at least 25,000 people.

Five sites with food, electricity and heating will open near Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has told the BBC.

Aid has now reached most of the remote areas hit by Saturday's quake in Pakistani-run Kashmir, he says.

But the army still cannot reach the Neelum valley which is totally cut off.

Earlier on Thursday, the man in charge of the international response warned that attempts to get aid to remote villages were running out time.

"We are losing a race against the clock in the small villages," said top UN aid official Jan Egeland as he urged the tripling of aid helicopters.

Injured child
Disasters Emergency Committee (UK)
World Food Programme
Kashmir International Relief Fund
Red Cross/ Red Crescent

Survivors are still pouring out of mountain regions, searching for help.

Tens of thousands are thought to have arrived in the wrecked city of Balakot, leaving their dead and some of the injured behind in the mountains where conditions are deteriorating.

"No search team came to our village. Most people have fled and there are only the injured left. Nothing came by helicopter either," said one refugee, Zaman, 28, from Bahngia.

The UN says an estimated two million people need rehousing and a million are in urgent need of help.

Some 20 helicopters have been lent to the aid effort by the international community, but the vast area of destruction is still stretching resources to the limit.

Mr Ahmed told the BBC's World Today programme more helicopters were still desperately needed, along with more tents and blankets.

He said that at least 500 soldiers had been killed and more than 1,000 injured in the quake.

A large number of police stations had collapsed, and a number of hospitals were badly damaged, the minister said.

'Forget the divides'

Mr Egeland earlier called for India and Pakistan to put their differences over disputed Kashmir behind them and handle the disaster together.

"We should really forget about old divides in Kashmir and there should be a very open invitation to all assistance from everywhere," he said.

India was among the first countries to offer aid to Pakistan and was sending a second consignment of relief goods on Thursday.

But Pakistan has denied reports from the Indian army that Indian soldiers had crossed Kashmir's Line of Control (LoC) to offer help to their adversaries, helping them build shelters against the cold.

See the devastation in the Pakistani town of Balakot


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