International Aid Pours Into Georgia

GENEVA -- Efforts to help victims of fighting in Georgia increased Thursday, with new commitments from Europe and the United States to boost supplies already being distributed by international organizations and others.

Tens of thousands of people need emergency help in areas hit by the fighting that started last week between forces of Georgia and its breakaway province of South Ossetia and Russia, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

The neutral ICRC has been demanding safe access to South Ossetia to start handing out aid and seeing how much more is needed. The ICRC would need such an assurance from all three sides.

"It is imperative that we gain rapid access to South Ossetia so that we can bring urgent help to those in need," said Dominik Stillhart, the ICRC's deputy director of operations.

European Union spokesman John Clancy said in Brussels that an EU team had noted no improvement in access since the cessation of hostilities announced by Moscow.

"But, of course, we hope that situation changes in the coming hours," Clancy

said. "South Ossetia is generally off limits for humanitarian workers at this stage."

Hundreds of people have been killed in the hostilities, and the ICRC noted government estimates that elsewhere in Georgia up to 60,000 people need emergency assistance. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says nearly 100,000 people have been uprooted by the conflict.

At least 12,000 people have fled across the Russian border into North Ossetia from South Ossetia, the ICRC said, adding that the vast majority of them are women, children or elderly.