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Indian PM Promises More Help to Quake-Devastated Kashmir


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made his first visit to Kashmir since Saturday's earthquake claimed more than 1,000 lives on India's side of the line of control. The Prime Minister pledged more financial assistance while acknowledging that the stricken region has not received sufficient relief supplies.

Prime Minister Singh flew by helicopter to see for himself the devastation in Indian-held Kashmir before landing in Uri, a town just six kilometers from the de-facto border with Pakistan.

Uri is where much of the assistance has been arriving since Saturday's earthquake, which registered 7.6 on the Richter scale. But Prime Minister Singh acknowledged there remains a dire need for tents and medical supplies in Uri and other areas where no assistance has reached.

Mr. Singh says there has been massive devastation and loss of life. He assured Kashmiris, on behalf of the Indian government and people, of the commitment to rehabilitate the area, provide employment, and to do whatever is necessary. He adds that, in this time of grief and sorrow, the entire country is with Kashmir.

Mr. Singh also promised increased aid to Kashmir, bringing the total to $116 million.

Authorities say more than 1,000 people died in Indian-held Kashmir, among about 30,000 dead across the region. Much of the destruction has been centered around Pakistan's city of Muzzafarabad - a city that holds special meaning for many on the Indian side of the de-facto border, known as the Line of Control.

Earlier this year, India and Pakistan launched a historic new bus across the line, linking Muzzafarabad and Srinigar, the summer capital of Indian-held Kashmir.

The new, bi-monthly bus-route is intended to unite families divided since 1947, when India and Pakistan began their competing claims for Kashmir. Two wars over the region and decades of icy relations ensued.

School teacher Mohammed Azam says his parents were excited about their trip to Muzzafarabad, because the bus is about building peace and because they wanted to see long lost family.

That trip was two days before the deadly quake. Mr. Azam has not heard from his parents since.

He says he wants the bus to run every week, he wants communications between the two countries to be restored, and relief supplies provided to everyone who needs it. He also wants the Indian government to lift travel restrictions so he can go to Muzzafarabad and look for his parents.

India has offered to send Pakistan any aid it requires to help with the relief effort. The offer has sparked hope that the earthquake may help India and Pakistan in their efforts towards peace.

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