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Archive for Sunday, December 18, 2005

Groups rush to aid quake zone before snow hits

December 18, 2005

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— NATO and UNICEF said Saturday that they are racing to get aid to earthquake survivors in the devastated areas of northwestern Pakistan and the disputed Kashmir region before harsh conditions worsen from heavy winter snow and rain.

The U.N. agency also said it was beginning to train local health workers to run medical centers and distribute emergency kits to survivors.

NATO said the Dec. 2 arrival of a contingent of Italian engineers had brought the alliance's disaster relief team to a full strength of more than 1,000 people. The engineers brought 136 vehicles, including dump trucks, excavators and bulldozers to repair roads, schools and bridges.

"This heavy machinery is essential to expedite the relief efforts," NATO said in a statement.

The alliance said it has brought in about 3,000 tons of supplies on more than 153 flights from Europe, providing more than 16,000 tents, 500,000 blankets, nearly 17,000 stoves and heaters, more than 31,500 mattresses, 3,900 sleeping bags and tons of medical supplies.

NATO now is working to help the Pakistani army set up shelters for people living in the mountains before snows set in, it said.

UNICEF, meanwhile, said it started training Saturday for the first 40 of 500 Pakistani health workers who will run 31 medical centers and distribute health kits, including antibiotics, cough syrup and eye ointments.

The program will expand to its full strength over the next two months, said Munir Safieldin, head of UNICEF's operations in Muzaffarabad.

An estimated 87,000 people were killed and 3.5 million left homeless when the magnitude-7.6 quake struck Oct. 8 in northern Pakistan and Kashmir, which is divided between Pakistan and India.

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