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US will airdrop supplies in quake-hit areas

By T V Parasuram in Washington
October 25, 2005 12:03 IST
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The United States will air-drop food, tents and blankets to remote quake-hit Pakistani villages from Tuesday.

It will also nearly double its troops' presence in the area by this week, a Pentagon official has said, as more American ships with relief material proceeded towards the Karachi coast.

"On October 25, at the request of Pakistan, US C-130 aircraft will resume air drops to remote sites," said Rear Admiral Michael LeFever, director of Disaster Assistance Center in Islamabad, which coordinates US military relief.

"The aircraft will be carrying food, tents and blankets," he said on Monday in a Pentagon briefing for reporters through telephone link-up.

"There would probably be over 1,000 US armed forces on the ground supporting the efforts of Pakistan by this week," he said. "This is almost double the present 560 troops carrying out relief work in the area."

He also said, within days, the USS Cleveland and the USS Tarawa ships will be arriving in Karachi, packed with essential supplies.

The arrival of those ships was preceded by the delivery of three-dozen pieces of heavy engineering equipment, which is needed to clear the roads that were devastated by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck on October 8.

LeFever said this batch of equipment will be ready to move debris by October 27. The utter devastation in Pakistan demands a continuing international relief effort, LeFever said - "It is a daunting task, especially as so many of the victims are trapped at high elevations without medical aid."

LeFever said the US has already delivered 532 tons of humanitarian aid and 53 tons of medical supplies to Pakistan. US helicopters have flown nearly 600 sorties, delivering 1,990,000 tons of supplies.

Those helicopters have flown 2,600 doctors and medical personnel into remote locations in Pakistan, the admiral noted. They have flown another 2,576 victims - many of whom are suffering serious orthopedic injuries - out on return flights, said LeFever, who has been in Pakistan for two weeks.

He said the numbers are growing because the US recently provided a mobile medical hospital, which should be surgery-ready within days.

The growing number of Americans is part of an international tent city that has sprouted at the Chaklala Air Base, bringing together Pakistani military and civilian entities, non-governmental organisations and the militaries from many countries and alliances, including Japan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, the Gulf Cooperation Council, Iran and NATO.

Complete coverage: Tremors across borders 

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T V Parasuram in Washington
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