Relief Efforts Ramp Up in Quake-Devastated Region
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
Aid is now pouring into Pakistan five days after the huge earthquake that left tens of thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands homeless. The bad weather that hampered yesterday's relief and rescue efforts is gone, allowing things to get moving again. We'll get an inside look at a helicopter relief mission in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan in a few minutes, but we're going to start with an overview of the relief effort from NPR's Michael Sullivan in Islamabad.
MICHAEL SULLIVAN reporting:
There were more helicopters in the air today and more relief convoys on the roads bringing badly needed supplies of food, blankets and medicine to the hungry, cold and sick. More roads were cleared, too, and more helicopters arrived from abroad, allowing the government to reach some, but only some, of the more remote areas cut off by Saturday's earthquake. In Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, some aid trucks were mobbed by desperate residents, many of whom prepared to spend their fifth straight night outdoors in the cold. In Muzaffarabad, the man in charge of the relief effort in the north, Lieutenant General Salahuddin Satti, said things were slowly getting better.
Lieutenant General SALAHUDDIN SATTI (Pakistan): We managed to rescue over 1,500 people from Muzaffarabad itself till yesterday. And, of course, major evacuation has also been possible today because of the Chinook helicopters. And the helicopters on their way back are invariably carrying the critically or the seriously injured people.
SULLIVAN: The Chinooks plus three Black Hawks are from the US military in neighboring Afghanistan. A total of eight American helicopters are now busy ferrying supplies and the injured with more on the way. At the airport in Islamabad, Pakistani Brigadier General Shah Jahan said the US military, often viewed with suspicion here, is today more than welcome.
Brigadier General SHAH JAHAN (Pakistan): They really are doing a wonderful job. There's no doubt about it. And the number of casualties they have brought here since yesterday and, you know, the vigor with which they are working, it is really excellent. It is unprecedented, really.
SULLIVAN: An unprecedented effort will be needed all around to help deal with the scale of the disaster; more than 23,000 dead with another 47,000 injured, according to the latest figures from the United Nations. And literally millions more in need, says UN country coordinator Jan Vandemoortele. Many have lost everything.
Mr. JAN VANDEMOORTELE (UN Resident Coordinator, Pakistan): Four million people are affected and one million people are acutely affected. But again, these are early estimates and likely to change.
SULLIVAN: The UN yesterday issued an emergency appeal for $272 million to help provide food, medicine and temporary shelter for those affected by the quake as winter approaches.
In her visit here today, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised long-term US aid for the country the US calls a `key ally' in the war on terror. More than 30 countries have now sent relief supplies and personnel to help with the disaster, including Pakistan's longtime enemy and rival, India. The first planeload of Indian supplies arrived in Islamabad this morning, even as the death toll in Indian-controlled Kashmir climbed to more than 1,400. India said it would also ease travel restrictions on Kashmiris to allow divided families help determine the fate of relatives on the other side, two small but significant gestures acknowledging the two countries' shared history and misfortune. Michael Sullivan, NPR News, Islamabad.