Turkey Pledges $150M in Quake Aid to Pakistan
GHANOOL, Pakistan – Turkey announced a $150 million aid pledge Friday for survivors of South Asia's massive earthquake, as NATO (search) agreed to deploy hundreds of military engineers and medics to bolster relief efforts weeks before the bitter winter begins.
In a sign of the growing desperation, survivors fought over the first food deliveries to their remote Himalayan hamlet since the quake left them homeless two weeks ago.
U.N. officials said the international response had fallen far short of what was needed, with nations pledging only about a quarter of the $312 million sought by the world body. By comparison, 80 percent of the U.N. appeal after last year's tsunami was pledged within 10 days.
Secretary General Kofi Annan (search) urged the world's nations and people to demonstrate "the same sense of global solidarity and commitment that we saw in the wake of the tsunami" last December that swept across the Indian Ocean from Indonesia to Africa.
Annan sent letters to the leaders of all U.N. member states appealing for urgent contributions to help Pakistan's quake victims (search), saying the next few weeks were critical and warning of a dramatic increase in deaths if help doesn't arrive quickly.
Turkey became the biggest single donor nation with its $150 million pledge. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the first foreign leader to tour the quake zone, promised long-term aid to Pakistan.
"We will do whatever is possible to assist you in this crisis," he said.
Secretary General Kofi Annan sent letters Friday to the leaders of all U.N. member states appealing for urgent contributions to help Pakistan's quake victims, saying the next few weeks were critical and warning of a dramatic increase in deaths if help doesn't arrive quickly.
Annan beseeched the world's nations and people to demonstrate "the same sense of global solidarity and commitment that we saw in the wake of the tsunami" last December that swept across the Indian Ocean from Indonesia to Africa.
The Oct. 8 magnitude-7.6 quake killed an estimated 79,000 people and left more than 3 million homeless. The logistical challenge prompted the U.N.'s top relief official to call for a massive airlift operation.
NATO agreed to dispatch up to 1,000 troops to reinforce the relief effort and to send 12 giant C-17 cargo planes loaded with supplies.
However, the alliance said it would only be able to muster five more helicopters, a setback given their usefulness.
Sixty-five helicopters — from Pakistan, the United States, Afghanistan, Japan and Germany — are being used to ferry relief supplies and evacuate the injured from remote areas. The choppers have been flying virtually nonstop, but have yet to reach many of the estimated half-million people still desperately needing aid.
In the northwestern mountain hamlet of Ghanool, a grueling six-hour trek from the closest relief hub of Balakot, about 200 desperate villagers pushed and fought for milk, bread and biscuits brought in by mule train.
"Many people have walked for hours just to get food," said Attahur Rahman, 45, whose mother and two nieces died in the quake. "We are desperate, we don't know when the next (food delivery) will come."
A chaotic scramble took place before soldiers forced villagers to form lines for the food.
"You better make sure we have enough!" Mohamed Rafeeq shouted to Capt. Azhar Javed, who was overseeing the distribution.
A helicopter carrying supplies turned back after seeing the chaos below.
The village, set in a valley with about 25,000 residents, suffered up to 2,000 deaths, Javed said. Homes and schools were flattened.
Snow already has fallen in Kashmir's high mountains, and temperatures are dipping below freezing at night. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has warned of a second wave of deaths if survivors do not get shelter and aid before winter.
"It's horrible," Hanna Mattinen, from the aid group Action Against Hunger, said at Paras village, where 1,000 tents were required but only 150 had arrived.
Women and children shared the tents, with men sleeping outside.
"The needs are just indescribable in terms of shelter," Mattinen said.
The Pakistani government's official toll rose Friday to more than 51,300 dead and more than 74,000 injured, but central figures have lagged behind regional numbers. The regional figures add up to about 78,000 dead.
India reported 1,360 deaths in its part of Kashmir.
Pakistan's president said Friday his country and longtime rival India should allow free movement across Kashmir (search), which both nations claim in its entirety and have fought two wars over.
"Let people come and help this side, or our people go across to that side to help in reconstruction. Wherever or whoever wants to do that, let's do it," President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said.