Touring Pakistan's Remote Northwest Province
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
Many of the areas of Saturday's earthquake in northern Pakistan are now accessible only by air. NPR's Philip Reeves toured part of the region today on board a Pakistani military helicopter. He joins us now by satellite telephone.
And, Philip, what could you see from the air?
PHILIP REEVES reporting:
Well, we flew up into Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, and below you could see it was extremely mountainous and remote terrain, dotted with farming communities. These are people who live up there, and on kind of terraces, they grow maize and potatoes, and we were providing--all the Pakistani military was providing the most kind of basic form of assistance. It's basically a soldier who was shoveling supplies out of the door of the helicopter, such as rice and milk and old clothes and biscuits, sometimes single packets of biscuits, to groups of people who were waving at us from the detritus of their now wrecked houses on the land below. They were clearly trying to get our attention more than four days after this disaster occurred.
MONTAGNE: And you also landed. What did you see where you landed?
REEVES: Well, we landed in a village called--or a community really, Ganul(ph) which is about 5,500 feet above sea level. And waiting for us there was a crowd of several hundred, perhaps 500 ragged and dusty people. I saw men who were carrying injured children in their arms. And as we landed, they began to move forward, and from their midst, they brought the injured. Some were carried on basic wooden beds and others were carried in people's arms, and some of them were carried, wrapped up in clothes and blankets.
And they loaded them, amid considerable chaos, onto the aircraft. There was a scramble to get on board. A man with a stick tried to hold them back because it was so chaotic, and they were so eager to get their injured ones away. And then once they'd loaded up, we had about 20 men, women and children on board the aircraft. Some of them were clearly in poor condition. I saw an old lady who was hovering between consciousness and unconsciousness and a small boy aged about six who had lost part of his leg. And then we proceeded to fly them back down south towards the city of Abbatabad, where they were off-loaded for assistance.
MONTAGNE: And then what happens to those people who have been flown out and I guess those who had to have been left behind?
REEVES: Well, those that were flown out were in this case taken by stretcher, and I assume they were taken off to clinics and hospitals in the area which we know to be already overburdened, but we saw others today at a Pakistani military base in Nexis(ph) that has been created at a town called Mansehra, where they've taken over a stadium where they were off-loading patients from helicopters there and putting them onto the back of open pickup trucks and taking them off through the streets and through the heat and the dust to get medical assistance.
So there's obviously a shortage of ambulances as well as a shortage of airpower. And, of course, airpower's vitally important. One Pakistani soldier told me it's going to take two weeks to get to all the victims in this region and another told me it'll take just 10 flights to get the seriously injured out of the community Ganul that I visited today. And when you fly over it, you can see why that's the case. One of the most striking things about the sight beneath us in this helicopter was the state of the roads which wind up these mountains, connecting these little communities with the outside world. We saw in one area a road which must have had--well, I counted eight large landslides in what I thought was an area of about a mile, a stretch of about a mile. So it's going to take weeks to get the roads back into condition.
MONTAGNE: And, Philip, we're speaking to you in northern Pakistan. Thanks very much.
NPR's Philip Reeves.
REEVES: You're welcome.
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