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UN Emergency Airlift Arrives In Uzbekistan

The U.N. refugee agency says an emergency airlift carrying humanitarian aid for tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in southern Kyrgyzstan has arrived in neighboring Uzbekistan.

Two Russian-built Ilyushin-76 cargo planes belonging to Uzbek Air, have brought in 800 lightweight tents, plastic sheeting for emergency shelter, blankets and sleeping mats.

The U.N. refugee agency says the tents will be rushed to the eastern part of the country to help the estimated thousands of people who were forced to leave their homes in Osh and other areas in southern Kyrgyzstan in the wake of a spasm of ethnic violence.

Ethnic tensions in Kyrgyzstan remain high and the situation is quickly evolving said UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic.

"We are alarmed by the rapid escalation of violence since June 10 in southern Kyrgyzstan, which has left scores of people dead and led to the displacement of an estimated 200,000 people within the country, in addition to 75,000 who have sought safety in Uzbekistan," said Mahecic. "The situation in Osh and Jalalabat remains tense and difficult with sporadic fighting and attacks on civilians, including women and children. We fear that unless peace and order is restored swiftly more people could be displaced as they flee to the countryside or try to cross the border to Uzbekistan."

Majecic said Wednesday's flights are the first of six scheduled to deliver more than 240 tons of emergency relief items by the end of the week. He said the first members of a UNHCR emergency team are in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent and in Andijan. They are working with the government to distribute the relief supplies.

The UNHCR is also preparing a separate airlift to Osh and will deploy an emergency team there. Majecic said the UNHCR has opened its warehouse in Osh and is already handing out aid to an initial 2,000 people.