Quake may have shifted landmines (Kashmir)

THE devastating October 8 earthquake may have shifted thousands of landmines planted by Indian and Pakistani troops along their disputed Kashmir border, a group warned Thursday.


"We are very much concerned," said Shafat Hussain of Global Green Peace, a non-government organisation that has worked since 1998 to persuade India and Pakistan to demine the region.

"There are thousands of mines out there threatening to take human lives."

Mr Hussain said areas along the de facto border, the Line of Control (LoC), are "heavily mined" on both the sides.

"As the earthquake triggered massive landslides along the Line of Control, it must have surely relocated these mines," he said.

"We are told that respective armies do keep a proper map of the planted mines, but those maps will not help, given the devastation."

Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Vijay Batra played down the risk.

"Landmines have been planted along the LoC and army posts some 58 years ago. No civilian area is involved," he said.

"Wherever a little bit of damage has taken place to the minefields due to the landslides, it is not affecting the civilians as no mines have drifted or shifted towards the civilian areas."

The Red Cross says that in the heat of war, mines are often not mapped or monitored and can shift depending on the weather and soil type, sometimes travelling kilometres if washed out by heavy rain.

Mr Hussain said if mines have been displaced they will put the lives of quake-hit villagers living along the LoC at risk.

Scores of people have died in landmine explosions over the years in Uri district, one of the regions in Indian Kashmir worst hit by the quake.

It took the Indian army weeks to de-mine a three-kilometre stretch of road in Uri that is part of a route opened in April for a bus service between the Indian and Pakistani Kashmir capitals Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.

The quake killed 1300 in Indian Kashmir and tens of thousands on the Pakistan side.

Von: 20 October 2005, http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au

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