M A I N   N E W S

PM announces Rs 500 cr more aid, toll rises to 1300

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talks to Kashmir Governor S.K. Sinha in Srinagar after visiting the quake-hit areas of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talks to Kashmir Governor S.K. Sinha in Srinagar after visiting the quake-hit areas of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday. — Reuters photo

Srinagar, October 11
Describing the weekend earthquake in Jammu and Kashmir as a national calamity, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced an additional Rs 500 crore relief.

“I have assured the state government and I want to assure the people of Jammu and Kashmir that money will not be a constraint in meeting all legitimate reconstruction and rehabilitation needed in affected areas of the state,” he said at a press conference after touring the worst-hit Tangdhar and Uri areas, close to the Line of Control with Pakistan.

Mr Manmohan Singh said 1,300 persons have lost lives so far and the number can go up while 4,500 have been injured. Thirtytwo thousand houses had been either completely or partially damaged, he added.

“The Centre will share the burden and not put it on the state government only. This (Rs 500 crore) is not the final figure and whatever is required for rehabilitation, the Centre will provide,” he said.

The Prime Minister said the Centre has already sanctioned Rs 100 crore on day one of the calamity while another Rs 42 crore were available with the state from the national calamity relief fund.

The Prime Minister expressed grief over the destruction unleashed by the earthquake in neighbouring Pakistan, saying that “our neighbour has suffered grievously. As soon as I learnt about it I contacted Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and offered whatever assistance the Government of Pakistan and people of that country may need”.

Asked if India has offered to provide relief to villages closer to LoC in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir which were better accessible from this side, he said the Army chief and Director-General of Military Intelligence had made such an offer to Pakistan.

“It depends on Pakistan’s sensitivities and we have to respect them. If they agree to this there will be a positive response from our side,” he said.

The Prime Minister said he had met Pakistan High Commissioner Aziz Ahmed Khan, who indicated certain immediate requirements which were accepted by India.

“I think the list of essential items provided by them like 1 tonne medicine must have reached Pakistan by now.”

Asked if he had any information about the fate of Kashmiri youth getting arms training across the Line of Control, he said he had no information about militants killed or affected by the earthquake.

“The loss of human life, particularly in these tragic circumstances, is a source of grief and nobody should make political capital out of it,” he said.

Asked if people from Jammu and Kashmir who have relatives across the LoC, would be allowed to visit PoK, the Prime Minister said humanitarian considerations should take precedence.

“The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road is bad but I don’t think there should be a problem for allowing people to go,” he said.

In response to another question, the Prime Minister said he would take up the restoration of phone links with Pakistan and Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir with the Department of Telecommunications.

A Press Information Bureau press note at the briefing said pre-fabricated houses or other appropriate houses will be provided to the quake-affected people to protect them against cold weather.

On complaints that relief material was not reaching remote areas, he said directions had been issued to arrange for tents, warm cloths and other supplies on a priority basis. — PTI



PoK deaths 50000, thin hope of more survivors

Islamabad, October 11
Chances of finding survivors turned grim as the death toll of Saturday’s devastating earthquake in Pakistan continued to rise today with independent sources putting the figure at 50,000 against the government’s 20,750.

“There are dead bodies everywhere and those who are injured don’t have a drop of water,” said a Muzaffarabad resident.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf asked the international community for more helicopters that could reach communities cut off in the region’s rugged mountains.

The stench of decomposing bodies rose from beneath the collapsed homes in towns where the lack of drinking water and broken sewage systems posed a risk of contagious disease outbreak.

Rescue teams which arrived in Pakistan from over a dozen countries, including the United States, Britain, China, Russia, Spain, France, Japan, Indonesia, Belgium and Turkey, have launched relief operations in full swing.

Pakistan’s Federal Cabinet has set up four committees to streamline and speed up relief operations.

These are Foreign Aid Committee, Local Resources Mobilisation Committee, Special Committee for PoK and Special Committee for NWFP. — UNI


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