France increases aid to flood-hit Pakistan, offers transport
France announced Sunday it would send a plane loaded with 60 tonnes of aid to flood-hit Pakistan, and signaled it is ready to use its military equipment to help transport relief.
"Given the exceptional seriousness of the situation, Bernard Kouchner has decided to send a plane carrying 60 tonnes (60,000 kilograms) of humanitarian aid," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
In a letter to the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, French President Nicolas Sarkozy also said the country was prepared to use its military aircraft to help transport aid.
"It strikes me as essential, for obvious humanitarian and political reasons, that Europe shows its solidarity with the Pakistani population in a visible manner," Sarkozy said.
It was "in the interest of Europe to also ensure the development and stability of this country," the president added.
The aircraft carrying the 60 tonnes of aid will leave France on Wednesday to reach Islamabad Thursday, and will include emergency equipment, makeshift shelters and drinking water.
This adds to the one million euros (1.3 million dollars) that France has already allocated to Pakistan since the start of the disaster, which the UN says has ravaged one fifth of the country and 20 million people.
The UN estimates that 1,600 have died since July 29, when flash floods and landslides caused by monsoon rains hit northwestern Pakistan and Pakistani Kashmir. The government in Islamabad has confirmed 1,384 deaths.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon arrived in Pakistan on Sunday and sent out an urgent appeal to the international community to speed up its aid, warning that the country's worst humanitarian crisis was far from over.
Humanitarian organisations have warned of outbreaks of epidemics and the UN has confirmed the first cholera case.
© 2010 AFP