UN warns over quake region victims

Last updated at 15:23 28 October 2005

UN weather experts said freezing temperatures and unusually heavy snowfalls would soon hit areas of Pakistani Kashmir, endangering efforts to feed and shelter survivors of the East Asian earthquake.

Relief agencies also renewed appeals for funds to keep a lifeline open to the millions left homeless - many of them injured - in remote parts of the Himalayas by the quake three weeks ago.

"The situation is getting more and more desperate," said the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

A spokesman for the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) spokesman told a news conference that with winter only three weeks away initial reports suggested it was going to be unseasonably bitter in the stricken areas.

"Snowfall is expected to considerably exceed the normal range, both in frequency and quantity," said spokesman Mark Oliver. In remote districts, falls had already been recorded.

Temperatures from December through February were likely to be "well below normal", said Oliver. "That means even day temperatures are likely to stay several degrees below freezing, especially in the mountainous areas," he added.

In January temperatures could plunge to minus 20C (minus 68F) at night.

Other UN agencies said that despite a major donors' meeting in Geneva this week called to boost the response to the crisis, a huge cash shortfall threatened to ground helicopters and interrupt food supplies to the survivors.

OCHA said it had only $117.4million, or 23 per cent, of the funding from the international community sought by the UN.

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