Military airdrops food and burial shrouds

AUTHORITIES yesterday airdropped burial shrouds and food to remote villages hit by the weekend’s devastating earthquake, as the death toll climbed to 804 in Indian Kashmir.

Three days after the magnitude-7.6 quake struck the Himalayan region, little help had reached outlying communities where villagers said food and water supplies were gone and some organised their own expeditions for supplies.

Authorities had delivered rice, flour and sugar, part of which was dropped by military aircraft over remote villages. Shrouds pieces of unstitched cloth required by Islam for burial were also airdropped.

But some residents were forced to organise their own relief efforts.

Mahammed Zafra said: "It has been three days and nothing is at our village. We have no water. We are running out of food."

He hired a car to get supplies from nearby town, but had to fend off angry villagers who mistook him and his car piled high with blankets, food and cooking supplies for aid.

"Nothing has come to us, nothing!" shouted one woman as she banged on the hood of his car before being pushed away by two policemen.

Nearby, irate residents blocked roads for the second day to protest the tardy assistance. An off-duty policeman, Mushdaq Youssuf, commandeered a car full of journalists to bring them to see the plight of his village of Pringal Uri.

"No one has come to our village to find out what has happened to us," he said.

Indian officials insisted they were doing everything they could. Sonia Gandhi, the head of India's ruling alliance, flew to Uri to reassure Kashmiris on Sunday.

One Indian civilian official said the military which has between 500,000 and 700,000 troops in Kashmir was focusing on caring for its own.

Yasin Malik, a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, said separatist groups in the disputed region were organising their own relief efforts.

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