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Pakistan police fire tear gas at cyclone victims

world Updated: Jun 29, 2007 14:48 IST

Police fired tear gas and bullets in the air to break up a protest by Pakistani cyclone victims on Friday as rescuers battled more bad weather to get aid to 1.1 million people.

Around 1,000 people marched on the local government office in the flood-hit southwestern town of Turbat to demand help, saying they had received no relief goods since Cyclone Yemyin struck on Tuesday.

"Our homes have been destroyed, there has been no drinking water and no food for the last four days," Ghulam Jan, 27, a farmer from a nearby village, told AFP during the protest.

"No government official or agency is helping us. We have no place to go, there is water everywhere," Jan said.

Six people were injured in the protest, including the local police chief, officials said.

Most of Turbat was submerged and people sat on the roofs of their huts and mosques. After days of braving the rain they now faced blazing heat after the clouds finally cleared.

But helicopters bearing aid were again grounded because of continuing downpours in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, some 550 kilometres (330 miles) to the northwest, where they are based, aid officials said.

Khuda Bakhsh Baloch, the Baluchistan provincial relief commissioner, said that 1.1 million people were now known to have been affected by the cyclone and subsequent floods after figures from another district came in.

Around 250,000 of them are homeless, while at least 21 have died and officials say the death toll is likely to rise once the waters subside.

"The situation is serious, we know that people are suffering," Baloch told AFP. "The more rain that comes, the worse it gets."

"Yesterday we started providing aid for a few hours, we saved some lives but we couldn't do it properly because of the weather. Today we have been trying to start the helicopters since morning but it is impossible," he added.

"We have the relief goods, we have the people but we cannot work because of the inclement weather."

The military says it has seen around a dozen helicopters and several cargo planes trying to airdrop water, food, shelter and medicine to people in the disaster zone.

Fresh rain damaged a bridge near Quetta, cutting the main road link between Pakistan and neighbouring Iran, officials said. Quetta and nearby towns have also been without gas for 48 hours after floods swept away a main pipeline.

Meanwhile along Pakistan's rugged northwestern border with Afghanistan seven people were killed overnight when their mud-brick houses collapsed in torrential rain, bringing the death toll in the area to 30.

Five were killed near Landikotal, the main town in the semi-autonomous Khyber tribal district and the last before the famous Khyber Pass border crossing, officials said. Another 23 died there on Thursday.