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UNHCR Emergency Airlift Arrives In Uzbekistan

Lisa Schlein | Geneva 16 June 2010

The U.N. refugee agency says an emergency airlift carrying humanitarian aid for tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in southern Kyrgyzstan has arrived in neighboring Uzbekistan.

Two Russian-built Ilyushin-76 cargo planes belonging to Uzbek Air, have brought in 800 lightweight tents, plastic sheeting for emergency shelter, blankets and sleeping mats.

The U.N. refugee agency says the tents will be rushed to the eastern part of the country. It says thousands of people who were forced to leave their homes in Osh and other towns and villages in southern Kyrgyzstan need shelter.

UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, says ethnic tensions in Kyrgyzstan remain high and the situation is quickly evolving.

"We are alarmed by the rapid escalation of violence since 10 June in Southern Kyrgyzstan, which has left scores of people dead and led to the displacement of an estimated 200,000 people within the country, in addition to 75,000 who have sought safety in Uzbekistan," said Mahecic. "The situation in Osh and Jalalabat remains tense and difficult with sporadic fighting an attacks on civilians, including women and children ... We fear that unless peace and order is restored swiftly more people could be displaced as they flee to the countryside or try to cross the border to Uzbekistan."

Majecic says Wednesday's flights are the first of six scheduled to deliver more than 240 tons of emergency relief items by the end of the week.

He says the first members of a UNHCR emergency team are in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent and in Andijan. He says they are working with the government on the distribution of aid.

He says the UNHCR is also preparing a separate airlift to Osh and will deploy an emergency team there. He says the UNHCR has opened its warehouse in Osh and is handing out aid to an initial 2,000 people.

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