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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 October 2005, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK
Quake helicopter crash kills six
Helicopter flight, Pakistan
Helicopter flights are vital for thousands of villagers still cut off
Six Pakistani soldiers have died in a helicopter crash while returning from an earthquake aid mission, as heavy rain again hampered relief efforts.

The MI-17 helicopter had just delivered aid to the town of Bagh in Pakistan-administered Kashmir when it came down late on Saturday.

Almost 40,000 people were killed when the quake struck on 8 October.

Kashmiri politicians have now called for the Line of Control that divides the region to be opened to aid relief.

Grounded

Pakistani military spokesman Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan said wreckage of the MI-17 was found by a search party near the town of Chapri.
Many people are out without shelter... things are only going to get worse
Robert Holden
UN relief operation

All those on board - four officers and two other soldiers - were killed.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known but Gen Sultan said strong winds and heavy rain were disrupting relief work in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and the northern region.

Dozens of Pakistani and American helicopters flying from the main logistical base near Islamabad had to suspend their operations due to bad weather.

Gen Sultan said the flights would resume only when the weather improved.

The pilot of the crashed helicopter was a Colonel Roghani, generally regarded as one of the most experienced helicopter pilots in the Pakistan army.

Senior military officials told the BBC news website that he was the only one out in the air delivering relief goods when all other helicopters had been grounded due to the bad weather.

Helicopters are vital to the relief effort as many communities and thousands of villagers are still cut off by landslides that swept the roads away.

Cold snap

The heavy rain has brought more misery to the millions of people made homeless by the quake.

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Pakistan has delivered 18,000 tents to the affected regions, far short of the 100,000 it says are initially needed.

Robert Holden, operations manager of the UN relief programme, said the weather had worsened the situation.

"Many people are out without shelter. It was miserable to start with but with these things are only going to get worse," he said.

"We've also got the danger of further collapse of buildings; a very, very difficult situation made even worse by the rain."

Pakistan's meteorological bureau in Islamabad has forecast more rain for Monday followed by a cold snap.

Pakistan says 38,000 people died in the quake, 60,000 were injured and 3.3m are homeless. At least another 1,400 more people died in Indian-administered Kashmir. Pakistan says the quake will cost it $5bn in infrastructure losses.

Pakistan's High Commissioner to the UK, Maleeha Lodhi, on Sunday defended Pakistan's response to the quake but admitted international aid so far given was "insufficient for what we need".

She told the BBC's Sunday AM programme that Pakistan in the long-term would need trade concessions like those given to countries following December's Asian tsunami.

Meanwhile the leader of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Sardar Sikandar Hayat Khan, called for the opening of the Line of Control that divides it from Indian-controlled Kashmir to help earthquake relief operations.

He told the BBC Hindi service that co-operation was needed as "we have to save humanity".

The leader of the governing party in Indian-administered Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, said she supported the idea.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had welcomed India's offer to help along the LoC but declined to accept it saying there were "sensitivities" involved.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, which both claim it in its entirety.





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