Dozens people hospitalized because of snow and rain in quake-hit Kashmir

Dozens of people suffering from hypothermia and respiratory illnesses were taken to hospitals Monday as rain and snow lashed Pakistan's quake-stricken part of Kashmir, blocking roads and grounding helicopters used to ferry aid to remote areas. Since the 7.6-magnitude quake struck Pakistan on Oct. 8, killing more than 87,000 people, aid agencies have been warning of another disaster among the 3.5 million people who lost their homes as the scenic Himalayan region's harsh winter settles in.

The season's first snow fell on mountains near Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Kashmir, and elsewhere late Saturday and downpours and snow continued Monday. Hundreds of women, children and the elderly already were suffering from respiratory illnesses, diarrhea, scabies, tetanus and other ailments even before the first cold snap.

Mohammed Shoaib, a doctor at a field hospital, said Monday that about 40 elderly and children suffering from hypothermia had been brought in there, and other facilities reported similar stories. The situation may be worse in remote areas, where landslides triggered by the precipitation has blocked main roads.

Maj. Farooq Nasir, spokesman for the army, said troops halted traffic on the main Neelum Valley road "to avoid loss of life" after overnight rain and snow. Engineers were working to clear the road, which links Muzaffarabad with scores of villages and towns and leads to the Line of Control, the heavily militarized frontier that divides Kashmir between South Asia's nuclear-rivals, Pakistan and India.

Nasir said no Pakistan army helicopters would fly in the quake zone Monday because of clouds and rain. Troops were vehicles and even mules to ferry food and other supplies to the needy, reports the AP. I.L.

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