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US Envoy Visits Pakistan's Earthquake Zone

Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes is in Pakistan with a group of American business leaders, touring areas struck by the October 8 earthquake that killed more than 74,000 people and left half a million people homeless.

On one of her first stops in the disaster zone, Karen Hughes visited a school for girls set up in a tent. She sang with the students, gave them some books and read with them.

Ms. Hughes met a teacher who saved many of the girls from a building damaged in the earthquake. They were lucky. Officials estimate that close to half the victims of this disaster were under the age of 18, partly because so many school buildings collapsed.

Muzaffarabad Police Chief Shahad Hassan says 70 percent of his community suffered damage in the quake and that the situation could grow even more desperate as cold weather approaches.

"We need more help. We need winterized tents. We need more blankets and we need some shelter before it starts snowing in December. We need to get them up in the mountains," he said.

Ms. Hughes and other U.S. officials brought aid in the form of special tarpaulins, designed to winterize tents.

"This is a truckload of tarps to help winterize some of the camp. We have a whole truckload for your camp. We are delivering it today from the American people," she said.

Accompanying Karen Hughes on this trip are the chief executive officers of two large American corporations - Hank McKinnell of Pfizer and Anne Mulcahy of Xerox. Also on hand is former chairman of United Parcel Service, Jim Kelly. They hope to energize business leaders in the United States to give more to the Pakistani earthquake victims. Mr. McKinnell brought a shipment of medicine for a field hospital operated by the U.S. military. He says this was the first in what will eventually be $10 million in medical donations to the Pakistani earthquake relief effort.

The U.S. government has authorized $156 million in aid for Pakistan's earthquake victims. However, the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region in September and October diverted attention from the earthquake in Pakistan, so private donations have not been as great as they were for last year's tsunami relief effort. Ms. Hughes and her private-sector companions hope to raise awareness of the Pakistan situation when they return, to encourage more public donations.