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Pakistan, UNHCR Ask NATO for More Assistance in Quake Relief

Heavy rains hamper rescue; helicopters, tents, blankets a top priority

By Vince Crawley
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Pakistani and international authorities have asked NATO for further assistance in the aftermath of the devastating South Asian earthquake, and advance units of the NATO Response Force were arriving in Pakistan by October 30.

“We are acting quickly to meet the needs of a great many people affected by this disaster,” U.S. Navy Vice Admiral John Stufflebeem said October 27 in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he is coordinating the arrival of more than 1,000 NATO troops.

Tariq Osman Hyder, head of Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Emergency Coordination Cell, addressed NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in Brussels, Belgium, on October 27, asking for further assistance. His request included: continued airlift, additional funds, logistics and airspace management, mobile fuel tanks, spare parts for helicopters and tactical aircraft, command and control, winterized tents and sleeping bags, according to a NATO news release October 28.

The same day, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees also gave NATO “an urgent request for the transport of additional shelter and relief items from their warehouses in Turkey to Pakistan before the bitter Himalayan winter sets in,” NATO said.

On October 13, NATO launched an air bridge to carry emergency supplies to Pakistan, first from Ramstein Air Base in Germany and, beginning October 19, from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. U.S. cargo handlers at both bases have been working around the clock.

““There are so many moving parts to this scale of an operation, it is hard to know exactly who to expect and how many people they are bringing,” said U.S. Air Force Captain Michael Meek, 39th SVS Combat Support flight commander. “But while they are here, we will make sure all NATO troops have a warm bed, clean sheets and a hot meal, so they can fulfill their part of the mission.

“This is a perfect example of good people trying to make the world better,” Meek told the U.S. Air Forces in Europe News Service at Incirlik.

At least 54,000 people were killed in the October 8 earthquake, and nearly 80,000 are believed to require urgent medical care.

“The situation in northeastern Pakistan remains serious, with rescue efforts severely hampered by the heavy rains,” NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center said in a situation report released October 28.

“Most relief efforts concentrate in the north of Pakistan where the only means to transport supplies to distant villages is by mule trains or helicopters,” the report said. “Winter conditions in the high elevation of the area will soon make it impossible to deliver supplies by roads, leaving helicopters as the only means of supply transportation.”

As of October 27, at least 23 NATO helicopters were operating in Pakistan. The United States plans to provide an additional 15 in the near future.

For more information, see U.S. Response to the Earthquake in South Asia.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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