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Helicopter crash kills 6 Pak soldiers

By K J M Varma in Islamabad
October 16, 2005 21:45 IST
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Six Pakistani soldiers have been killed when their helicopter crashed upon return from an aid mission to the quake-hit regions of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, as heavy rains hampered relief efforts Sunday with dozens of choppers suspending operations.

The MI-17 helicopter crashed Saturday night killing all on board, four officers and two other soldiers, Pakistani military spokesman Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan said adding, the wreckage was found near Chapri town by a search party.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known, but Gen Sultan said strong winds and heavy rain were disrupting relief work in PoK and the northern region a week after the 7.6-magnitude earthquake.

Pakistan says 38,000 people died in the October 8 quake-- half of them in PoK capital Muzaffarabad alone, while 60,000 were injured and 3.3 million rendered homeless. At least another 1,400 died in Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's Education Minister and former ISI Chief Gen (Retd) Javed Ashraf Qazi told National Assembly that bodies of over 200 soldiers are still under the debris in quake-hit areas of PoK, where Pakistan government said "battalions" of troops had perished.

Relief operations by dozens of Pakistani and American helicopters flying from the main logistical base near Islamabad  had to be suspended Sunday due to heavy rains. Sultan said the flights would resume only when the weather improved.

Thousands of villagers are still cut off by landslides that swept the roads away, as rains brought more misery to the millions made homeless by the massive quake.

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K J M Varma in Islamabad