'Panic' as Afghans enter Pakistan
The United Nations refugee agency says more than 3,500 Afghans fled into Pakistan on Friday - the heaviest influx since the US began bombing Afghanistan.
"A wave of panic has swept the border," a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told the AFP news agency.
The main flow of refugees is through the Pakistan border town of Chaman.
Even before the American strikes, Pakistan was sheltering some 2.5 million Afghans who had fled years of civil war and drought. It says it cannot cope with any more.
"Chaman alone is filled with panic stricken Afghans who fled Kandahar and very heavy bombing last night," UNHCR spokeswoman Fatoumata Kaba said, speaking from Quetta.
Two thousand of the refugees are still stranded in Chaman, some 100 kilometres (62 miles) northwest of Quetta. Ms Kaba said the UNHCR would ask Pakistan to allow them to deliver emergency supplies to the area.
The UNHCR is painting an increasingly bleak picture of the fate of the refugees. Before Friday, it said an average of 2,000 Afghans were getting across the border every day.
Many arrived in Chaman "reportedly smuggling their way through or bribing border officials" to flee the air strikes, Ms Kaba said, with many refugees suffering malnutrition.
"People are arriving with no food or belongings, some families have become separated," another UNHCR official said.
Chaman is only about 130 km (80 miles) from the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar which has been one of the main targets of the US-led air strikes.
Earlier reports said most of the refugees getting into Pakistan were women and children. Afghan men, the reports said, were being pressed by the Taleban into military service.
Once inside Pakistan the refugees face a grim future.
The Pakistani Government is only allowing new refugee camps to be built in the border area, a remote and inhospitable region.
Aid agencies have pleaded with the government to be allowed to build camps elsewhere. They say their work is frequently hampered by attacks on their staff in an area that is notoriously insecure.
Moreover, the area lacks much basic infrastructure making it harder to supply essentials such as water - all this when the region is suffering a drought.
On Wednesday the governor of the province, Baluchistan, said the refugee figures were greatly exagerrated.
The UNHCR has said that one and a half million Afghans could become displaced in the wake of the American military campaign against Afghanistan.
And aid agencies say their appeals for donations have not met the response they were hoping for. There are estimated to be some five million Afghans living as refugees, most in Pakistan and Iran.
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