KARACHI: The United States has expanded its rescue and flood relief operations to northern Sindh by establishing a new “helicopter operations centre” at Pano Aqil airbase near Sukkur.
This was stated by US Consul General William Martin while addressing a press conference along with Rear Admiral Sinclair Harris at his residence here Tuesday. He also recognised the cooperation of the Pakistan military in the project. US Marine helicopters are flying from this base to deliver tens of thousands of pounds of emergency relief to villages in northern Sindh. American helicopter crews are working closely with the World Food Programme to distribute urgently needed food. Four more US helicopters capable of carrying even greater loads are expected to arrive in Pano Aqil today (Wednesday).
Thousands of pounds of humanitarian aid from the US ship Peleliu have been sent to Faisal Air Force Base and dispatched to the Sind disaster management authority.
The US has, so far, announced over $200 million for relief work. Most of this amount is distributed through NGOs. To another question, Martin said that efforts are on to provide potable water to 49,000 families for 90 days in flood-affected areas of Sindh.
Admiral Harris said that 19 helicopters are taking part in flood relief operations and 11 more will come to Pakistan as and when needed. “We began our operations from Pano Aquil air base five days ago and delivered 43,000 pounds of relief supplies,” he said. “Besides this, C-130 transport aircraft are also delivering food and medicines in Sindh almost every day.”
First charter flight with aid arrives from UK
The first charter flight to bring British aid directly to Karachi arrived at Quaid-e-Azam Jinnah international airport Monday night. The flight is the tenth from the UK government since the monsoon floods began. Previous flights landed in Islamabad and Multan, an official of the UK Deputy High Commission in Karachi said on Tuesday.
The plane, an Antonov, the world’s largest commercial aircraft, was loaded at the East Midlands airport and carried water and sanitation equipment, which will be distributed by NGOs. The aid on board included: 18,800 water containers (jerry cans and buckets), 34 million water purification tablets for 340 million litres, three water purification units.
The aircraft also carried supplies from Oxfam and the International Health Partnership free of charge.
George Turkington, head of the UK’s Department for International Development in Pakistan, said: “The situation in southern Pakistan remains critical. High tides in the Arabian Sea and the clay soil in the region mean that flood waters will remain standing for some time to come. Huge areas remain submerged, houses are uninhabitable, and five million people have had to leave their homes in Sindh alone.”
Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, will provide an update to the UK Parliament today about the flood situation in Pakistan.
The UK was one of the first countries to respond to the crisis.The UK government committed 64 million pounds (approx 8.5 billion rupees) and the UK public has generously donated a further 42 million pounds (more than 5.5 billion rupees) to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).
Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2010.