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United Nations Steps Up Aid To Georgia

United Nations and International agencies are stepping up aid to victims of the conflict between Georgia and Russia that erupted Friday in the breakaway region of South Ossetia. The agencies say lack of access to South Ossetia is the biggest problem they face. Lisa Schlein reports from UN European headquarters in Geneva.

The aid is starting to flow into Georgia. The U.N. refugee agency reports a plane it chartered carrying relief supplies for civilians landed at the airport in the capital, Tblisi, Tuesday morning.

Spokesman Ron Redmond says the plane carried 34 tons of tents, jerry cans, blankets and kitchen sets from UNHCR's central emergency stockpile in Dubai.

"It is the first U.N. humanitarian flight to reach Georgia since the fighting in the breakaway region of south Ossetia erupted on Friday," he said. "A second UNHCR flight is scheduled tomorrow from Copenhagen, another of our central logistical hubs. The two flights will provide more than 70 tons of aid supplies for up to 30,000 people and will augment other relief items already distributed by UNHCR from its warehouses in Georgia."

Latest figures provided by Georgian and Russian government sources estimate nearly 100,000 people have been uprooted as a result of the fighting in South Ossetia. U.N. aid workers report up to 80 percent of the population in the Georgian border town of Gori has left following heavy bombardment by Russian aircraft.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says a plane loaded with 16 tons of medical supplies as well as materials to support water distribution to 20,000 people left Geneva Tuesday for Tblisi.

In addition, the Red Cross has launched a preliminary appeal for nearly $7.5 million to meet the emergency needs of around 50,000 people.

Red Cross spokeswoman Anna Nelson says the appeal will ensure adequate surgical and medical care for the wounded. It will provide emergency aid for people displaced in North Ossetia and Georgia, and for civilians remaining in Ossetia. But, she says, the dangerous security situation makes access a problem.

"We, the ICRC, do not yet have access in South Ossetia," she said. "We have been calling since Friday for safe and unimpeded access to all areas affected by the conflict."

These concerns are shared by other aid agencies all of which are calling for the creation of a humanitarian corridor to allow for the safe passage of civilians and essential relief supplies.

The ICRC reports its delegates on Monday visited two Russian pilots who were wounded during the conflict in South Ossetia and are being held by the Georgian authorities. Anna Nelson says the men are fine and were able to send Red Cross letters to their families.

She says the Red Cross is seeking access to all people captured or arrested in connection with the conflict.