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Pakistani Embassy Makes Personal Appeals for Aid


The Embassy of Pakistan in Washington has stayed open, answering phones and issuing exit visas to people desperate to find relatives. The Embassy's Deputy Chief of Mission, Mohammed Sadiq, says for some on his staff, the tragedy is personal.

"When you see the person sitting next to you and his family is missing or a member of his family dead, it just adds another dimension to this whole feeling," he told us.

Mr. Sadiq has slept only a few hours since the 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck on Saturday. He says people want information and they are trying to help.

"Today somebody came to the embassy and left 20 parcels of clothes,” said Mr. Sadiq. “But we are asking people not to do that."

That's because sending blankets and clothes to remote regions costs money. The embassy is coordinating relief efforts with dozens of organizations across the United States and it's asking people to donate cash.

Among the many organizations reaching out: the International Medical Corps, which is recruiting medical volunteers to send to the hardest hit regions and Humanity First, an international relief organization based in the United Kingdom.

Humanity First spokesman Anser Ahmad says the organization has already sent funds to the affected regions.

"At least 30,000 pounds ($52,000 U.S.) have been allocated for the relief in Pakistan right away. And that money is going to be used, best used, by sending the funds to Pakistan where items are purchased at a much cheaper cost than if purchased in the U.K. or U.S."

The government of Pakistan says it needs more helicopters to rescue survivors in remote mountain regions where entire villages have been wiped out. Embassy officials say one chopper can save up to 50 lives per day but there are not enough to help the nearly 50,000 injured, and the more than two million people left homeless.

Relief organizations say money is needed to buy tents, blankets and medicine but some worry that recent calamities in Indonesia and the Gulf Coast will stretch donation dollars thin.

Mr. Ahmad believes the donations will come. "Resources are always tough because a large amount of people did donate to Katrina and now you turn around, there's another earthquake. We're actually surprised that after Indonesia we collected a large amount for Katrina, which was only four to six months later. And we do believe that people are generous and they will give."

The Pakistan Embassy is asking anyone wanting to help to visit its website. A designated account has been set up for donations.

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