FAISABAD, Afghanistan (AP) _ Helicopters shipped in tons of building supplies and evacuated more injured from northern Afghanistan today, trying to aid villages ripped apart by an earthquake that killed as many as 5,000 people.

The death toll has been climbing steadily since the 6.9 magnitude quake struck Saturday, triggering landslides that split mountains and swallowed entire villages.

Most of the remote region's 70,000 people have been left homeless, their mud-brick homes crumbled to dust by the quake and repeated aftershocks.

Many mountain roads have been blocked by landslides, forcing aid workers to rely on helicopters to ferry in supplies and bring the most seriously injured to regional hospitals.

Thousands of people were still missing as aid workers struggled to reach the region. As many as 60,000 people were in need of shelter, said Juan Fuertes Guillen, a Red Cross spokesman.

``We have already started to establish priorities, carrying out medical evacuations and treating the wounded at the sites,'' Guillen said today.

Mobile medical units were set up in Shari Basurkh, 30 miles from Faisabad, the capital of northern Badakhshan province.

Up to 80 villages were estimated to be heavily damaged, and another dozen obliterated.

In Chaujan, a village near the quake's epicenter, the scene was horrific. Thousands of homes were gone and residents wandered, dazed, through the rubble.

Among the hardest-hit areas was Rustaq, the site of a Feb. 4 earthquake that killed as many as 2,300 people and left another 8,000 homeless. Some reports today said another 1,000 people in Rustaq died in Saturday's quake.

With poor sanitation and recent rains, the risks of malaria, cholera and hemorrhagic fever were rising as each day passed.

France was sending about 35 tons of aid to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, to be transported to the disaster area. Japan, Germany, the European Union, and the Netherlands were also sending assistance.