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Emergency Aid Flights Resume in Pakistan Quake Zone


After three days of bad weather, the United Nations has resumed emergency aid flights into areas of Pakistan devastated by October's massive earthquake. But relief workers say conditions on the ground still hamper aid efforts.

The skies have cleared and aid is now pouring in as flights resume, but relief agencies in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir say the danger is far from over.

Wind, rain and snow grounded aid flights for three days earlier this week and caused dozens of landslides throughout the quake zone.

Sayad Razak is the emergency coordinator for the UK-based aid agency Islamic Relief.

He says several of his teams have been forced to postpone distribution of food and emergency shelters in several high altitude villages.

"It's freezing cold. Road access has become a problem," he said. "They've become very dangerous, either by road or even by foot."

He says thick ice still covers many of the unpaved roads that snake through the Himalayan quake zone.

The forecast is for more snow in the next few days and nighttime temperatures in many quake areas are already dropping to -15 Celsius.

Razak says thousands of families living above the snowline still do not have winterized tents.

Doctors in Muzaffarabad, close to the earthquake's epicenter, report a sharp rise in severe respiratory infections, especially among children.

More than three months after the earthquake hit, an estimated two million people are living in temporary shelter. The U.N. and international aid agencies have distributed an estimated 250,000 tents, but only a quarter of them are appropriate for winter conditions.

Tuesday, former U.S. President George Bush toured a tent village for some 30,000 quake survivors outside the capital Islamabad.

The 81-year-old statesman, who is the special U.N. envoy for the South Asian quake, says he is working to make sure international donors honor pledges they made late last year.

"Right now, with the weather and the winter, it's very important that the relief effort go forward and that the funds be available to get this done," the former president said.

Major donors have pledged more than $6 billion for Pakistan's earthquake recovery, but most of the funding has either not been delivered or has been set aside for medium and long term development programs.

The U.N. says funding for its emergency programs, which cost an estimated 50 or $60 million a month, is running dangerously low.

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