Speeding up relief efforts in quake-hit Jammu and Kashmir, food and water were today airdropped in remote villages nestled in difficult mountain terrains as the death toll in the temblor was poised to soar past the 1000 mark. On day three of Operation "Imdad" (Help), Indian Air Force helicopters dropped food packets and water bottles in the worst-affected Kupwara and Baramulla districts, state chief secretary Vijay Bakaya said in Srinagar.
Over 1900 tents have been set up in Uri and Tangdhar sectors where the damage in terms of people killed, injured or property was immense as it was closest to the epicentre of the quake in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir capital of Muzaffarabad. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will undertake a tour of quake-hit areas in Kashmir valley on Tuesday. Admitting that water supply to affected areas was a problem because of acute shortage of tankers, Bakaya said all-out efforts were being made to approach hitherto unreached areas and air force would regularly air drop food and water from Monday.
However, he admitted 14 villages in Tangdhar remained inaccessible on the third day after the tragedy struck. An official spokesman said so far 947 people have been killed, 4,000 injured and 30,000 houses damaged across Jammu and Kashmir.
Of the dead, 619 were in worst-hit Baramullah district and 301 in Kupwara district in areas along the Line of Control.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said, "We are trying to reach remote areas - there are villages which have been razed to the ground." He said the helicopter fleet pressed by the government was under a lot of pressure to cope up with the task of rushing hundreds of injured to hospitals and it was expected to ease with the arrival of the helicopters from the United States.
In Srinagar, Bakaya said two companies of Indo-Tibetan Border Police were already engaged in rescue and relief operations in the worst hit areas of north Kashmir. He said generator sets had been sent to the affected areas in Uri and Tangdhar to provide electricity for essential services like makeshift hospitals.
However, he said water supply was a problem in the affected villages as there were only six water tankers in the area for catering to the survivors in the wake of damage to water supply schemes.
He said two truckloads of food packets and water bottles donated by NGOs had been kept for the victims and 4400 blankets were distributed among the affected people in Baramulla district and another 2500 in Kupwara district.
In Tangdhar, intermittent landslides have buffetted relief and rescue efforts in inhospitable high altitude areas close to the Line of Control. The residents of this area along the Kishan Ganga river have been cut off from main Tangdhar town due to landslides blocking roads, making it difficult for the army and civil administration to provide relief to them.
Aftershocks of the quake continued to trigger landslides along mountain slopes instilling fear among survivors who are yet to come to terms with the widespread death and destruction wrought by the magnitude 7.6 tremblor.