BALAKOT, Pakistan (AP) – The death toll from Pakistan’s earthquake rose sharply to nearly 40,000 on Saturday, with the president warning the numbers could jump still higher as relief teams reach more villages in the endless folds of the Himalayan mountains.

One relief helicopter crashed late Saturday in stormy weather near Bagh, killing all six people aboard, a senior army official said today.

Throughout the region, homeless survivors searched desperately for blankets and tents to brace against temperatures that dropped to 44 degrees and the torrential rains.

The suddenly cold weather in some hard-hit areas was an ominous sign that winter was fast approaching – with thousands of villagers still cut off from any aid whatsoever a week after the magnitude 7.6 quake hit the region.

The heavy rain began early Saturday and continued past daybreak today in many stricken towns and snow fell in the surrounding mountains, disrupting efforts to help an estimated 2 million people still lacking shelter.

The transport helicopter that crashed was returning home after dropping off relief workers and all those killed were military personnel, the official said on condition of anonymity becuse he was not permitted to speak with reporters.

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