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Pakistan Relief Effort Must Be Augmented Quickly, Admiral Says

24 October 2005

Chief coordinator of U.S. military relief says country needs long-term help

Washington –- The U.S. military is bringing a tremendous capability to earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan, a senior officer says, but the long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction effort there probably will require international support for years.

Navy Rear Admiral Michael LeFever, the director of the Disaster Assistance Center in Islamabad, Pakistan, that coordinates military relief, says the United States already has delivered 532 tons of humanitarian aid and 53 tons of medical supplies to Pakistan.  Providing an operational update via telephone for reporters at the Pentagon October 24, LeFever said U.S. helicopters have flown nearly 600 sorties delivering 1,990,000 tons of supplies.

Those helicopters have flown 2,600 doctors and medical personnel into remote locations in Pakistan, the admiral noted; he added that they have flown another 2,576 victims -- many of whom are suffering serious orthopedic injuries -- out on return flights.

LeFever, who has been in Pakistan for two weeks, says there are 563 U.S. military personnel supporting the relief operation.  He said the numbers are growing because the United States recently provided a mobile medical hospital which should be surgery-ready within days.  (See fact sheet.)

The growing number of Americans is part of an international tent city that sprouted at the Chaklala Air Base, bringing together Pakistani military and civilian entities, nongovernmental organizations and the militaries from many countries and alliances, including Japan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Iran and NATO. (See related article.)

On October 25, at the request of Pakistan, LeFever said, U.S. C-130 aircraft will resume air drops to remote sites.  The aircraft will be carrying food, tents and blankets.

Within days, the admiral added, the USS Cleveland and the USS Tarawa will be arriving in Karachi, Pakistan, packed with needed supplies.

The arrival of those ships was preceded by the delivery of three-dozen pieces of heavy engineering equipment, courtesy of the USS Pearl Harbor and other U.S. vessels.   The equipment is needed to clear the roads that were devastated by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck South Asia on October 8.  LeFever said this batch of equipment will be ready to move debris by October 27.

The utter devastation in Pakistan demands a continuing international relief effort, LeFever said.  “It is a daunting task,” he said, especially as so many of the victims are trapped without medical aid at high elevations.

On October 23, Pakistan Army General Farooq Ahmed Khan told reporters at Chaklala, Pakistan, that the death toll has reached 53,000 and the number of seriously injured has climbed to 75,000.  The chairman of the Pakistani Prime Minister’s Federal Relief Commission said there is only a short window of several weeks to help the homeless before the winter weather settles in.

Pakistanis especially need blankets and heavy-lift helicopters, the Pakistani general said.  “I am sure the international community is going to muster all that they have and provide all the assistance which is required within this short time frame,” he said, so that shelter will be provided in time.

The commander of the U.S Central Command, which has responsibility for U.S. military forces in Pakistan, toured the earthquake zone and then told reporters in Chaklala that the American effort is all about helping friends.  Not only the United States, but the entire international community must help Pakistan in its hour of need, Army General John Abizaid said as he stood at the podium with Khan.

The United States is on the scene to help not because Pakistan is an ally in the global war against terrorism, Abizaid said, “but because people need help.”  Pakistan’s recovery has to be a long-term effort, he said, “and you will certainly see us leading the way to the extent that we can.”

After having toured two-thirds of the 25,000 square kilometers of devastated land, Abizaid said it is clear that “there is still a need for immediate help.”

For more information about earthquake relief efforts, see U.S. Response to the Earthquake in South Asia.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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