April 27, 2006

UN sees rains as big challenge in quake-hit Pakistan

MANSEHRA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Monsoon rains and landslides
could block roads in northern Pakistan devastated by the last
year earthquake, complicating problems for thousands of
survivors returning homes, a U.N. official said on Thursday.

More than 73,000 people died and about 3 million became
homeless in the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit Pakistani
Kashmir and adjoining North West Frontier Province on October

A big relief effort, helped by an unusually warm winter,
prevented a second wave of death among the survivors.

Around 70,000 survivors who descended to valleys to spend
winter in tent encampments are returning to their mountainous
villages with the advent of summer.

Michael Jones, Country Representative of the World Food
Program, said road accessibility in remote areas were the major
challenges for the aid agencies as survivors were returning

"During the period of July, September and October, we
anticipate that about 80 percent of roads would be blocked by
the landslides," he told Reuters during a visit of Abdul Aziz
Arrukban, WFP Special Ambassador to the quake-hit region.

He said continuing helicopter services and use of other
modes of transport, like mules and donkeys, were essential to
keep aid going to the affected people.

Jones said the WFP planned to provide food assistance to
survivors until they got two crops harvested. "After that, the
food assistance will be withdrawn," he added.

The earthquake was one of the worst disasters to hit
Pakistan in its 57-year history.

In some cases entire villages were wiped out by avalanches
or were reduced to rubble.

International agencies and the government responded rapidly
to the crisis, setting up emergency camps and sending in vital
equipment like tents, medical supplies, food and water.