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Aid Agencies Rush Relief Supplies to Quake-Hit Pakistan

U.N. and international aid agencies are rushing relief supplies to quake-hit Pakistan. The agencies say it is crucial to get tents and food into isolated communities in northern Pakistan before the winter snows cut off access.

The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says it has 2,000 tons of supplies on the ground and more are on their way to quake-hit Pakistan. Spokeswoman, Jennifer Pagonis, says the UNHCR and its partners are rushing to get everything distributed, especially 20,000 tents, before the onset of winter weather.

"The idea is to keep them moving as soon as they come in our airlift and then out. That is why some of our Pakistani staff, including our drivers, have agreed to work right through the Eid holiday this weekend to make sure that those who are in need of tents get them," she said. "This still is a race against time and weather and if we lose this race, people are going to suffer even more than they have been now."

The International Organization for Migration estimates more than 200,000 people in isolated areas of northern Pakistan have not been reached.

IOM Spokeswoman, Jemini Pandya, says her agency is focusing on trying to get relief supplies to these communities.

She says the first 50 of 300 trucks are to leave Wednesday for a remote town in the Haveli region of Bagh district. She says the trucks will deliver essential supplies, including large winterized tents, blankets, mattress and heaters to 7,000 quake victims.

"The people here are extremely poor," she said. "Before the earthquake, Islamic relief was already doing food distributions on a regular basis there. And, it is really important to get the aid to this community ASAP, because once the snow comes, they will be cut off completely until April. The roads are incredibly difficult already because of the landslides and we are going to have to try and access the community through jeeps."

Aid agencies estimate 2.3 million people will need food aid. A World Food Program Spokesman, Simon Pluess, says his agency plans to feed one million people for now.

"Now, we also have to make a difference between those inaccessible areas in the mountains where we have to airlift [food to] approximately 200,000 people where you have to pre-position food for the next six months. That is our priority," he said.

Mr. Pluess says the World Food Program (WFP) is trying to get 30 helicopters to fly food supplies on an almost non-stop basis during the next two months. But, he says this is a very costly operation and the agency has received only 16 percent of the money it needs.

The United Nations says it has received 24 percent of the $550 million appeal it launched last month for earthquake relief.