German helicopters to help Pakistan quake relief
10 October 2005, ISLAMABAD - Eight U.S. Chinook helicopters arrived in Islamabad from neighboring Afghanistan on Monday to join daunting relief and rescue operations in Pakistan's quake-hit areas and its administered Kashmir region.
10 October 2005
ISLAMABAD - Eight U.S. Chinook helicopters arrived in Islamabad from neighboring Afghanistan on Monday to join daunting relief and rescue operations in Pakistan's quake-hit areas and its administered Kashmir region.
With the arrival of American choppers, a total of 35 helicopters as well as transport aircraft of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) will take part in the rescue operations from Tuesday, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told a press conference in Islamabad.
U.S. President George W. Bush had ordered the Afghanistan-based helicopter squadron Sunday to move to Pakistan following his telephone conversation with President General Pervez Musharraf. A White House statement said that the U.S. would be providing an "initial contribution of up to 50 million dollars" to Pakistan.
At least two German helicopters are also likely to join the operation soon.
Thousands of people stranded in several quake affected inaccessible areas are desperately waiting for relief assistance, medicines, tents and blankets amidst continued to surge in the death toll after the killer earthquake, which measured 7.6 at the Richter scale.
Unofficial estimates put fatalities at nearly 40,000 against the government's figure of slightly over 20,000.
"We will be able to figure out exact number of fatalities in the next few days as rescue teams push their way through far flung difficult mountainous areas," Aziz said.
Various newspapers reported casualties of between 35,000 and 40,000, while relief and rescue efforts entered a third day with several thousand people still missing and feared dead.
The communications minister of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Tariq Farooq, estimated 30,000 dead in his region alone, the epicentre of the Saturday's 7.6 magnitude earthquake.
More casualties were feared in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), where independent sources were revising the death toll to around 9,000.
Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistani Kashmir, was among the worst hit, recording more than 11,000 casualties with around 70 per cent of houses razed to the ground.
A whole fleet of army aviation and PAF helicopters in the country had been mobilized Sunday to evacuate the wounded as broken roads and disrupted communication links prevented access to people stranded in remote areas of the Kashmir region.
However, Aziz said most of the supply lines and roads between Pakistan and Kashmir region have been restored. "We hope to swiftly transport relief goods through these roads to the affected areas.
"We still need latest equipment to clear roads from the rubble as our prime objective is to get food and medicines across to the people in need and provide shelter to tens of thousands of shelterless people," he added.
Aziz said the international community has so far pledged some 100 million dollars for relief and rehabilitation in addition to despatching rescue teams.
"The situation got worse in most of areas in Kashmir, as all the medical facilities such as hospitals and dispensaries were also wiped out completely in the earth quake," he added.
The Prime Minister's remarks came against a backdrop of complaints by people in Kashmir region about non-availability of relief goods, medicines, tents and blankets.
A local resident of Rawalakot said people of this small town in Kashmir region, which was the worst-hit town, are forced to spend nights outdoors under open skies.
"Thousands of people in and around Rawalakot are desperately waiting for the relief assistance including tents, medicines and blankets since last Saturday when the earthquake completely destroyed their areas," Shakoor Khan told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
He said the government must quickly send relief to these areas where the situation is getting worse because of the advent of the winter season, which brings chilly winds and rains.
Meanwhile, army rescue teams on Monday pulled as many as five students alive from the rubble of a degree college building in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Subject: German news