Pakistan Aid Approaches 8 Million Pounds
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2010 U.S. military personnel continue to aid millions of Pakistanis affected by flooding in the country, defense officials said today.
Marine Corps helicopters transported nearly 317,000 pounds of relief supplies in Pakistan yesterday, Pentagon spokesman Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan said. Fixed-wing aircraft operating out of Afghanistan transported 44,000 pounds of supplies, and U.S. military aircraft rescued 701 displaced people yesterday, he added.
Unusually heavy monsoon rains caused the Indus River and its tributaries to overflow in late July. The floods washed away bridges, roads, railways and thousands of buildings. The Pakistani government ordered millions of people to evacuate their homes and villages, and it now is struggling to keep up with the evacuees’ needs and rebuilding the country.
The amount of U.S. aid provided to Pakistan to date has been impressive, Lapan said. U.S. military aid operations began Aug. 5 with Army helicopters from Afghanistan delivering supplies and rescuing those trapped by flooding. Marine helicopters from the USS Peleliu replaced the Army aircraft, and together they have delivered 4.8 million pounds or relief supplies. Air Force C-130s and C-17s have been delivering aid since Aug. 16. To date, airmen have delivered 3.1 million pounds of aid. This brings the total to almost 8 million pounds of aid, Lapan said.
The U.S. military aircraft have rescued 16,299 people to date. All American aid is at the request of the Pakistani government, the colonel said.
Aerial operations in Pakistan are challenging, officials said. Much of the country’s infrastructure was washed away with the floods. The increased moisture has meant troubles with fog and haze. In the northwestern part of the country, rough terrain and high altitude further complicate the aid missions.
The military helicopters come from the USS Peleliu, and are operating from Pakistani air bases and the amphibious assault ship. The USS Kearsarge is joining the Peleliu in international waters off the coast of Pakistan. The two crews will work together to bring aid to the millions of Pakistanis affected by the floods.
“They both may be there for some period of time,” Lapan said. “It will not be a hand-off. It depends … on what the need is that determines when the Peleliu departs.”