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Pakistani survivors tussle over first food and aid to arrive

Saturday, October 22, 2005

In other mountain villages, survivors were still crying out for shelter from the frigid weather.

GHANOOL, Pakistan -- About 200 desperate people pushed and fought each other for milk, bread and other food brought in Friday by mule train -- the first aid to reach their remote mountain village since Pakistan's earthquake left them homeless two weeks ago.

A helicopter carrying more supplies turned back after seeing the chaos below in the settlement of Ghanool in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province.

In other mountain villages, survivors were still crying out for shelter from the frigid weather. The Oct. 8 quake left some 3.3 million people homeless and killed nearly 80,000.

"It's horrible," said Hanna Mattinen, an aid worker with the group Action Against Hunger in the village of Paras, which needed 1,000 tents but only had 150. Men were forced to sleep outside, while women and children shared the tents.

"The needs are just indescribable," Mattinen said.

In Kashmir, snow has begun to fall in high mountains, and temperatures are dipping below freezing in some villages at night. Aid workers fear casualties will rise because communities are without adequate food, shelter or health care.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered $150 million in cash and aid after he surveyed the devastation Friday by helicopter with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

The pledge made Turkey the biggest single donor nation so far in a faltering relief effort.

U.N. relief coordinator Jan Egeland says the U.N. has received only 27 percent of its appeal for $312 million in quake relief -- compared with 80 percent pledged within 10 days of a similar appeal to international donors after the South Asian tsunami.

Egeland called on NATO countries to launch "a second Berlin airlift," referring to the nonstop flights by Western pilots into West Berlin in the late 1940s when Soviet forces sealed off the city.

He said the logistics of aid in the freezing, mountainous and remote Himalayan region were more complicated than the efforts following the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami, which killed more than 176,000 people.

NATO was debating a plan Friday to send up to 1,000 soldiers, including engineers, to the quake area, as well as medical units to set up a field hospital. The alliance was also looking at providing more helicopters for the relief effort, though NATO officials said the number of extra aircraft was unlikely to exceed five.

It also said it would expand its airlift to Pakistan with 12 flights by giant C-17 cargo planes provided by Britain and the United States. The United States, Germany, Japan and Afghanistan have already sent helicopters to aid in relief efforts.

Pakistan's top relief official Maj. Gen. Farooq Ahmed Khan said a disease surveillance and control system has been set up with the assistance of the World Health Organization.

Maj. Saqib Mahbub, who coordinates relief flights out of Mansehra district, said the number of seriously injured arriving from outlying villages for treatment had dropped from about 500 a day at the peak of the crisis, to about 100 now.

But Medecins Sans Frontieres warned that even minor injuries left untreated could become infected and pose a major danger.

"Every case now left behind is becoming a very serious case now," said Krist Tierlinck, the group's emergency coordinator for Bagh in Kashmir.

Abdur Rehman, a 27-year old farmer, only managed to bring his mother for treatment for two broken limbs on Friday. It took villagers more than eight days to clear a way through a landslide so the stretcher-bearers could reach the nearest health post at Paras, he said.

The Pakistani government's official toll is more than 51,300 dead and more than 74,000 injured, but central figures have lagged behind regional numbers. The regional figures, from officials in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province and the Pakistani-controlled portion of Kashmir, add up to about 78,000. India reported 1,360 deaths in its part of Kashmir.


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