Earthquake relief officials say the world is not doing enough to prevent the possible loss of thousands of more lives in northern Pakistan this winter, following the devastating earthquake that estimates say has killed more than 79,000 people. The relief operation is plodding along slowly.
It is a race against time as helicopters continue to deliver relief supplies to remote and hard-hit mountain villages in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. U.S. army pilot Grant Rush told VOA that there are still hundreds of villages that have not been reached.
"Got a lot of work to do, a lot of cargo to be moved, the freight aircraft keep bringing it in, it is stacking up. We need to really move a lot more freight," he said.
The Americans have 13 helicopters here, and international aid officials say that is nowhere near enough. Top U.N. relief coordinator Jan Egeland appealed to NATO to launch a massive airlift to evacuate tens of thousands of earthquake victims in Kashmir before winter sets in next month.
Mr. Egeland's appeal followed a dire warning of catastrophe from the United Nations Children's fund. It said 10,000 more children could die from hunger, cold, and disease because aid is not reaching remote villages. Speaking at his headquarters in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the world must do more to help as many as three million people left homeless by the quake.
"I do not think we need this massive wave of dead. We can avoid it if we move fast," he noted.
But Pakistani aid worker Qusain Mukkar sees no light at the end of the tunnel.
"The situation is not getting better as we expected," he said.
Aid officials here say the earthquake is a logistical nightmare and one of the toughest relief operations the world has ever known.