|Relief is arriving in the parts of Pakistan hit hard by the recent earthquake. The United States is also pledging long-term aid. |
The U.S. has increased contributions of food and medical aid to Pakistan, adding more military helicopters to deliver supplies and airlift victims from some of the worst hit areas.
The large Chinook helicopters can carry up to 40 casualties at a time but Mark Jones, U.S. Chief Warrant Officer, says it's an overwhelming task because so many are injured. "The real hardship is the people out here. We can't get it out fast enough for them. We come here and try to make as many trips a day as we can. We won't get enough up there."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Pakistani leaders on Wednesday to promise long term support to help the country rebuild.
"I just want the people of Pakistan to know that our thoughts are with you, that we will be with you in your hour of need, and that we will be with you not just today but also tomorrow as you try to rebuild."
Secretary Rice promised more U.S. aid for Pakistan beyond the initial $50 million the U.S. has already pledged, but did not offer a specific timeline. The U.S. Secretary is the highest-ranking foreign visitor to Pakistan since the massive earthquake struck on Saturday, killing an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people.
After so many days, the prospect of finding survivors is fading but rescuers did find glimmers of hope. In the Northwestern town of Balakot, behind tons of paving stones, French rescuers dug through concrete and steel for three hours to free a child, straight to the arms of his waiting father.
And in Muzzafarabad, where the earthquake was centered, a relative clutches a 5-year-old girl who was trapped for nearly 100 hours behind a concrete stairwell.
Stories like that grow fewer with each passing day and the news for some survivors appears bleak.
United Nations officials say some communities in remote Himalayan towns near Kashmir may have to wait two to three weeks before help arrives because the global emergency relief system has been stretched thin. Jan Vandermoortele, a UN coordinator in Pakistan says $270 million is needed to cover emergency needs for the next six months. "This is an unprecedented disaster that is beyond the scope of any government and any organization to tackle alone."
But the worst earthquake in Pakistan's history has also brought unprecedented unity to the area. India and Pakistan have set aside their often-bitter rivalry to help the victims of the earthquake. India has pledged more than $100 million in assistance, and plans to send a transport aircraft carrying 25 tons of food, tents and medicine.
Pakistan has accepted the offer but declined the use of Indian helicopters to help distribute supplies.