Angry residents of Indian-administered Kashmir blocks roads

With only a trickle of aid reaching the area, angry residents of Indian-administered Kashmir were blocking roads and demanding relief. In this hamlet on the slopes of the Himalayas, the results of what Kashmiris say is a flat-footed relief operation were clear: mothers cooked rice mixed with dirt for hungry children and fathers scrounged for firewood to keep their families warm through a second frigid night camped outside the ruins of their homes.

As the death toll from Saturday's magnitude-7.6 earthquake rose to at least 650 in India, the relief delivery, carried out mainly by the Indian army, was mired in logistical difficulties and bad weather. Collapsed homes and shops lined the streets in the worst hit areas of Tangdar, Uri, Punch and Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital. Some 900 people were injured. "Here, in our village, we are only a few hundred people who need help ... water, tents, blankets," said Rayaz Ahmad Mir, a teacher in Jabla village on Sunday. "But we have not seen one single soldier." Indian officials, however, insisted they were doing everything they could, Sonia Gandhi, the head of India's ruling alliance, even flew to Uri to reassure Kashmiris on Sunday. The military, which has between 500,000 and 700,000 troops in Kashmir to quell a Muslim separatist insurgency, said it had flown planeloads of medicine, food and drinking water. More than 1,000 tents were also being distributed in remote villages, said military officials.

But one Indian civilian official said the military, though assisting some victims, was focused on caring for its own, 54 of whom died when their bunkers collapsed in Saturday's quake. The official, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, said that in one army hospital in Uri, soldiers and their families were getting priority over civilian victims.

As for the civilian aid effort, the official said it was practically nonexistent.

Indian authorities were also carefully assessing needs before moving ahead, further slowing efforts, said John Tulloch of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, reports the AP. I.L.

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