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South Asia earthquake: British Chinooks join race against the snow

Briefing notes

South Asia earthquake: British Chinooks join race against the snow

15 November 2005

In northern Pakistan, snow has started falling in areas above 2,600 metres. The snow line is dropping by the day, and rains at lower elevations are making life cold and miserable. The race to bring relief to earthquake survivors is intensifying. Starting tomorrow (Wednesday), three British Chinook helicopters will airlift 238,460 kgs of UNHCR supplies to Dherian and Mandal in the Leepa Valley near Muzaffarabad. The load includes 2,000 tents, 36,000 blankets, 4,000 kitchen sets, 4,000 plastic sheets and 4,000 jerry cans. Our teams are on the ground to receive and distribute the items.

Work continues at lower elevations to improve living conditions in camps. In Muzaffarabad, UNHCR and Unicef are running a workshop for Pakistan's military and civilian authorities, giving them hands-on training on how to plan a camp site to avoid congestion, sanitation and protection problems. These authorities will go on to train others in the earthquake-affected areas, where numerous spontaneous and official camps have been erected.

Our warehouse in Islamabad is almost empty. We've distributed most of the tents, with mainly stoves and kitchen sets left. The NATO airlift, now in its fourth week, has so far transported over 1,200 tonnes of relief materials from Turkey into Pakistan. That's in addition to hundreds of thousands of other relief items that were transported by UNHCR-chartered commercial flights in the early stages just after the quake. Overall, we've provided more than 2,000 tonnes by air and surface transport so far, with more than 800 tonnes still on the way.

Over the weekend, a NATO-chartered plane transported an additional 15,000 UNHCR plastic sheets to Pakistan from Copenhagen. By the end of this week, when the Turkey part of the airlift comes to an end, attention will be shifted to Amman, Jordan, from where over 300,000 blankets will be airlifted in NATO-chartered commercial flights. A trainload of 40,000 blankets is presently on its way to Pakistan from India.

Since the earthquake struck Pakistan, UNHCR has brought more than 20,000 family tents, 271,895 blankets, 32,840 jerry cans, 28,242 kitchen sets, 4,331 stoves, 83,291 plastic sheets and thousands of other items into Pakistan. But lack of funding remains a major obstacle for us to purchase additional goods. For the month of November alone, we need $18 million, but have so far received only $8.6 million.