German team joins international quake relief
11 October 2005, ISLAMABAD - Bad weather and sudden rains hampered ongoing rescue operations in Pakistan's quake-hit areas Tuesday, as thousands of stranded people desperately waited for relief and assistance.
11 October 2005
ISLAMABAD - Bad weather and sudden rains hampered ongoing rescue operations in Pakistan's quake-hit areas Tuesday, as thousands of stranded people desperately waited for relief and assistance.
"All helicopter flights to quake-hit areas have been suspended due to heavy rains," said an official at the Pakistan Air Fore (PAF) base in Rawalpindi from where the choppers are operating.
The disruption in flights was certain to multiply the miseries of the devastated people in the areas where land routes were blocked by landslides and broken roads.
"Accompanying with hailstorms, it is raining since 1400 hours (local time), making the relief efforts even more difficult," a reporter based in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan administered Kashmir, told the private TV channel Geo.
Muzaffarabad is the worst-hit area where Saturday's 7.6 quake has so far claimed more than 12,000 lives, with 90 per cent of the physical structures destroyed or damaged.
In another northern city, Abottabad, some 30 kilometres south of Muzaffarabad, rains flattened makeshift hospitals set up at the parking area of Ayub Medical Complex, which is already full with patients.
Meteorological officials have predicted intermittent rains during the next 48 hours in Muzaffarabad and in the Bagh and Rawalakot districts of the Kashmir region.
"There will be more rains and after two days a cold wave will enter the region, making things more difficult for the people," Muhammad Hanif told Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
As the death toll from Saturday's devastating earthquake continued to rise, Pakistani and foreign rescue teams launched a major relief and rescue operation Tuesday morning, supported by over 35 helicopters from the Pakistani armed forces and the United States.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz Tuesday confirmed 23,000 fatalities and another 51,000 injured. Unofficial estimates, however, continue to put the fatalities at over 40,000.
"Eleven foreign medical teams are on the ground and have set up six field hospitals in the worst-hit areas along with six camps manned by Pakistani civil and military doctors", Aziz told a press conference in Islamabad.
In addition, 16 teams from various countries including Germany, United States, United Kingdom, Spain, France are assisting the rescuers in different areas mainly in the Kashmir region, the Prime Minister stated.
He said the government has also moved two army divisions, one each in Mansehra and Kashmir to look after administrative affairs, as civil set up in these areas was virtually non-existent after Saturday's quake.
Earlier, chief military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said relief efforts have reached thousands of quake-affected people but thousands of others remain inaccessible.
"This is a disaster of enormous scale and we have to understand that," Sultan told DPA.
Sultan said the immediate priority for the government is to reach out to people and provide them relief. "To achieve this objective, Pakistan and U.S. helicopters conducted 128 sorties with tons of relief goods," he added.
Eight U.S. helicopters from Afghanistan's Bagram airbase have already joined relief operation while two German army CH53 helicopters also arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday afternoon.
"We expect more choppers to arrive in Pakistan in the near future," a German embassy spokesman told DPA.
He said it was not easy to pull out these two choppers from their ongoing operational duties in neighbouring Afghanistan. "But we are happy to have them here at this critical time," the spokesman added.
Thousands of people marooned in several quake-affected inaccessible areas are desperately waiting for medical supplies, tents and blankets to overcome the hazardous impact caused by the 7.6 magnitude earthquake.
The international community has so far pledged some 100 million dollars for relief and sent over 500 experts to assist in the rescue operations.
Subject: German news