UN says at least 450,000 tents needed immediately
MUZAFFARABAD: Alarm mounted across the world on Friday for thousands of Pakistan earthquake survivors who have been awaiting help for two weeks and now face the prospect of a freezing winter without shelter.
The top United Nations top relief coordinator Jan Egeland, incensed by what he saw as a woefully inadequate international response to the most difficult relief operation the world has ever seen, called on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to stage a massive airlift to get survivors to safety.
That would mean helicopters, the only means of getting quickly deep into the rugged Himalayan foothills of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and the North West Frontier Province where 51,000 people are dead. That toll, in addition to some 1,300 who were killed in Jammu and Kashmir, is still expected to rise substantially. Pakistan said the number of injured, now 74,000, could also leap because large quake-hit areas had not yet been reached. “You must rest assured that NATO fully realises the gravity of the situation. NATO will act accordingly,” said Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the military alliance’s secretary-general.
But NATO, whose ambassadors considered UN emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland’s airlift demand in Brussels on Friday, is short of helicopters that such an operation would require. The alliance has struggled for the past two years to deploy enough helicopters for peacekeeping in neighbouring Afghanistan.
The closest source of helicopters would be India, but it has fought two wars with Pakistan over Kashmir.
The few roads into the high hills were crumpled, buried by landslides, even swept away by the earthquake and aid officials are frightened that countless more people, without adequate shelter could die.
Lieutenant-General Salahuddin Satti said he hoped the road up Jhelum valley would be re-opened in a week but it would take six weeks for the nearby Neelum valley. “It’s a very very major task,” he said. The lack of roads means supplies cannot be delivered in significant quantity by an aid fleet of fewer than 100 helicopters. Soldiers are using mules, horses and donkeys, even carrying supplies up on their backs. So are villagers. “We went to one village at 1,300 metres and temperatures were dropping to minus five at night and there were old people whose only shelter was plastic sheeting,” said World Food Programme spokeswoman Mia Turner. “Shelter is crucial and if people don’t get that soon there will be a crisis of a different kind, people will start dying of exposure.” agencies