Earthquake Relief Effort Strengthens

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
A man holds a girl amid the devastation in Pakistan.

A man holds a girl amid the devastation in Pakistan. Michael Sullivan, NPR hide caption

toggle caption Michael Sullivan, NPR

Days after Saturday's South Asian earthquake, relief efforts are moving along as more roads are reopened and more helicopters take to the air to provide badly needed supplies. In Pakistan, the official death toll stands at 23,000, and in Indian-controlled Kashmir, more than 1,400 are confirmed dead.


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Days after the south Asian earthquake, we have an update this morning on relief efforts. More roads are reopened, more helicopters have been taking to the air to provide badly needed supplies. In Pakistan, the official death toll stands at 23,000 with another 47,000 injured. In Indian-controlled Kashmir, more than 1,400 are confirmed dead. From Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, NPR's Michael Sullivan reports.

(Soundbite of loading activities; voices)


US military Chinook helicopters have been in country four days now, transporting relief supplies in and the wounded out. This helicopter's first run of the morning is to Balakot, to the north and east. The cargo includes tents from the US and blankets from the Iranian Red Crescent Society.

(Soundbite of loading activities; voices)

SULLIVAN: Pakistan's military has helicopters, but few with the load capacity of an American Chinook. The US helicopters here are now flying three to six flights a day upcountry, a little farther out each day.

(Soundbite of helicopter)

SULLIVAN: The pilot of the Chinook called the Miss Behavin' is Chief Warrant Officer Mark Jones from Seattle. He made his first trip to Balakot yesterday morning and was shocked to learn his was the first helicopter in since the quake.

Chief Warrant Officer MARK JONES (Helicopter Pilot): When we got in there, we came in and they had all the casualties and wounded laid out, about five deep, just covered with tarps, waiting for somebody to come in there. We unloaded our tents, and then they just started throwing the injured on board, and we--between the two aircraft we brought back almost 90 casualties.

(Soundbite of helicopter)

SULLIVAN: And it's been pretty much the same thing every flight since. Balakot is just a 40-minute flight from the capital, with the snow-capped mountains of the Hindu Kush clearly visible from the air. The roads below are filled with traffic, much of it trucks heading toward the disaster zone. The traffic tapers off closer to the center of the zone, the roads often blocked by fallen rock or dirt. The helicopters circle twice before landing. Two bridges are still standing across the river that runs through the center of Balakot. Most of the buildings on either side are gone. Blue and orange plastic sheeting, temporary shelters, dot the ruins.

(Soundbite of helicopter)

SULLIVAN: As soon as the two helicopters land, Pakistani troops begin removing their cargo. Hundreds of civilians are kept away from the landing area by barbed wire and soldiers with guns. The wind generated by the choppers' blades isn't enough to mask the smell, six days in. Many bodies are still buried under the rubble. Critically injured civilians lie on stretchers next to the helicopters, waiting to be flown out. Injured children are cradled in the arms of adults as they, too, wait to fly out. Many are badly hurt, crying and scared.

A French rescue team loads its equipment into one of the choppers for the flight back to the capital. Once there, the group's leader, Colonel Jean-Jacques Mornat, says they managed to save five children since arriving in Balakot on Monday. The students were trapped in the rubble of their school, he says, alongside the bodies of their classmates. But since early yesterday, he says, there've been no signs of life from beneath the rubble and no more work for his crew.

(Soundbite of helicopter)

Colonel JEAN-JACQUES MORNAT (French Rescue Team): I think there is no job now for search and rescue teams, and we must now have a big, big operation to give them food, tents. They need tents, they need covers, they need food, they need water, because when we were at--we saw the first snow, you know, the first falls of snow. In one month, snow will be coming, will come in Balakot, and those people have nothing, nothing. All their houses have been destroyed, so they have nothing, and now--they must be served now.

SULLIVAN: Many in places like Balakot and Muzaffarabad, where thousands died, have complained bitterly about the slow pace of the relief effort and put the blame squarely on Pakistan's government. Pakistan's president, General Pervaiz Musharraf, addressed the issue in a nationwide address last night.

(Soundbite of speech)

General PERVAIZ MUSHARRAF (Pakistani President): ...(Unintelligible) relief or rescue operation ...(unintelligible) is made...

SULLIVAN: Musharraf admitted that the relief effort had gotten off to a slow start, but insisted that was due to a lack of resources, not a lack of effort. He urged the survivors to be patient and said the relief effort is now in full swing.

More than 30 countries have donated relief supplies and equipment, including Pakistan's neighbor and archrival, India. During her brief visit to Islamabad yesterday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said more US help is on the way.

Michael Sullivan, NPR News, Islamabad.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from