Pakistani Flood Waters Just Beginning to Recede
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2010 Flood waters are just beginning to recede in Pakistan, but it will be months before the full extent of the damage can be assessed, U.S. officials said.
Between 15 million and 20 million Pakistanis have been impacted by the flooding and about 1,500 have been killed. The United States immediately pledged its support and the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad began coordinating missions with the Pakistani government. American humanitarian assistance for Pakistan has come at the request of its government, officials said.
Overall, the United States is providing $200 million in flood-relief aid to Pakistan – including $10 million in operations costs for aircraft.
Heavy monsoon rains produced an influx of water that began overflowing the banks of the Indus River and its tributaries at the end of July. Since then, U.S. military personnel have been working continuously to provide aid and relief to Pakistanis stricken by the flood, Defense Department officials said. Six U.S. Army helicopters and crews based in Afghanistan began the aid effort in Pakistan on Aug. 3. American military aircrews flew across Khyber-Pahtunkhwa province and rescued thousands of people stranded by flood waters as unusually heavy monsoon rains pummeled the northwestern portion of Pakistan.
On July 31, U.S. military began airlifting Halal - religiously permitted - meals to a Pakistani air base located near Islamabad, the country’s capital city.
Nineteen helicopters from the USS Peleliu began flying missions in support of Pakistani efforts soon after, allowing the Army helicopters to return to missions in Afghanistan. Air Force C-130s also began shuttling immediate humanitarian goods and U.S. Agency for International Development supplies around Pakistan.
Yesterday, the Pentagon announced that 18 helicopters from Alaska – 10 Chinooks and eight Black Hawks – will deploy to Pakistan and begin operations in mid-September. The USS Kearsarge has deployed early and will relieve the Peleliu sometime at the end of September.
Today, U.S. helicopters rescued 625 people and flew in 114,000 pounds of supplies. Afghanistan-based C-130s delivered about 55,000 pounds of goods.
Overall, U.S. helicopters have rescued 9,433 people and flown in 1.7 million pounds of goods. C-130s have delivered 985,000 pounds of supplies since operations began, said Pentagon spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan.
U.S. support will continue as long as the Pakistani government needs – and requests – the help.
“We've responded immediately to Pakistan's requests for support as they've come in,” Lapan said. “With regard to the arrival of our helicopters, it's been the plan all along to bring these aircraft into Pakistan in a phased approach to ensure base infrastructure is ready to support the additional helicopters and associated personnel.” Four U.S. Marine helicopters are slated to arrive in Pakistan later in the week to assist with flood-relief operations.
It's important to note that the flooding in Pakistan has been an evolving situation, Lapan said. Unlike the 2005 earthquake, he said, the impact of the current Pakistan floods “was not immediate and assessments of damage and support requirements have taken longer due to the scope and duration of the problem.
“We continue to remain in close contact with the Pakistan government to be responsive to their needs,” he added, “which will likely evolve over time as the flood waters recede and recovery begins.”
The flood waters in Pakistan spread from the northwestern part of the country down the Indus River to the more populated states of Punjab, Balochistan and Sindh. Aside from the loss of life, hundreds of thousands of buildings, miles of roads and railroad tracks, levees, dams and other infrastructure projects suffered damage. Millions of Pakistanis rendered homeless by the floods are camping along the limited high ground that exists in certain areas.
Now the waters are starting to recede. But the floods that washed out bridges and roads have made whole areas of Pakistan impassible. U.S. officials said that the government of Pakistan can count on American support as it begins its long-term recovery.