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U.S., NATO Rushing More Helicopters to Pakistan after Earthquake

26 October 2005

Severe weather threatens survivors; 75,000 said to need medical attention

Washington – The United States and NATO plan to nearly double their numbers of rescue helicopters in Pakistan as United Nations officials report a “desperate need” for more aircraft in the aftermath of the October 8 earthquake.

At least 54,000 people were killed in the 7.6-magnitude earthquake, and 75,000 more “need urgent medical attention,” NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center said in a situation report released October 26. (See related article).

Many earthquake survivors are stranded in isolated mountain regions cut off by landslides and fallen rocks, accessible only by helicopter, mule or on foot, the Disaster Response Center reported.

Six U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopters are expected to arrive in Pakistan over the next several days, bringing the U.S. helicopter fleet there to 18 aircraft, the U.S. Central Command reported October 25.

“The additional helicopters will join the others in ferrying relief supplies from the Chaklala Air Base near Islamabad, Pakistan, to the remote mountainous region in northeast Pakistan,” Central Command officials said. After dropping off humanitarian supplies, the helicopters carry injured patients to medical facilities on their return flights back Chaklala Air Base.

“To date, U.S. helicopters have delivered approximately 1.8 million pounds of relief to the isolated region and evacuated more than 2,500 casualties,” Central Command reported.

Hundreds of American military personnel have deployed to Chaklala Air Base as part of a massive international relief effort. The American military contingent includes 233 members of a mobile army surgical hospital, or MASH, as well as a 32-member communication team.

NATO on October 21 agreed to boost assistance to Pakistan by deploying more than 1,000 troops, including engineers, multinational medical units and water-purification teams. Headquarters personnel began arriving October 24. NATO also has airlifted 300 tons of emergency supplies from bases in Germany and Turkey. Another 800 tons are waiting to be airlifted.

NATO officials said the United States has earmarked a total of 33 helicopters for the earthquake relief effort. Other NATO allies are contributing seven more helicopters – four from Germany and three from the United Kingdom, according to the NATO Disaster Response Center.

Though October 25, the United Nations Joint Logistics Center said at least 73 helicopters were operating inside Pakistan with 47 more on the way. Other countries providing helicopters include Afghanistan, Japan, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. Pakistan’s armed forces also have several dozen aircraft.

“The cargo-carrying capacity of the combined Pakistani and international rotary wing fleet deployed to the emergency is likely to double in the next week to 10 days with the arrival of heavy-lift military helicopters,” the U.N. Joint Logistics Center said October 24. “However, there is still a desperate need for further lifting capacity, particularly in the five-week window of opportunity to reach isolated communities prior to the real onset of winter.”

NATO’s Disaster Response Center said the first snowfall could take place even sooner.

“Relief efforts in northeastern Pakistan are continuing with severe weather forecasted this week and a three-week window to deliver winterized tents to the mountainous areas before the first snowfall,” according to the Disaster Response Center’s October 26 situation report. “Presently, an estimate of 200,000 family tents will be in country by the start of winter, sheltering half of 800,000 people believed to be without shelter.”

Additional information is available on these Web pages:

· NATO’s Pakistan Earthquake Relief Operation

· U.N. Joint Logistics Center, which coordinates international relief efforts

· U.S. Central Command, which coordinates U.S. military operations throughout the South Asia region and is overseeing U.S. military contributions to the international relief effort.

For more information on U.S. aid to the stricken area, 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:

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