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Tuesday, 07 July 2015

 

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US increases flood relief aid to $ 71 million, sending more helicopters PDF Print E-mail
WASHINGTON, Aug 11 (APP): The United States on Wednesday increased its assistance for flood-ravaged Pakistan to $ 71 million and said more helicopters are on way to contribute to relief and rescue services for millions of people affected by the largest natural calamity in the South Asian nation’s history.

“This is a devastating catastrophe, and we recognize that, President Obama, Secretary Clinton, the U.S. government recognizes that” U.S. Special Representative Richard Holbrooke told Washington-based Pakistani journalists as Islamabad grappled to look after 14 million people affected over 150,000 sq km of the country’s territory.
Besides destroying crops and infrastructure, the flooding has claimed lives of nearly 1600 people and shattered 650,000 houses.
Holbrooke, who has been discussing relief assistance efforts with Pakistan’s ambassador in the United States Husain Haqqani, also renewed Washington’s call for greater international help for Pakistan in this hour of immense challenge.
Ambassador Holbrooke hoped that a previously scheduled October 14 conference of Friends of Pakistan in Brussels, would turn into a conference of support for Pakistan’s flood recovery.
“We have sent helicopters from Afghanistan, and we know how difficult that was to do. We have got a ship off the Karachi coast now with more helicopters on it, about to go in. So far, we have committed $ 71 million,” he said, updating Tuesday’s figure of $ 55 million.
The U.S. flood relief assistance exceeds more than the combined aid commited by the rest of the world has committed so far.
“We are reaching out to everyone” in support of Pakistan’s effort, he added, drawing international attention to the enormity of the task Pakistan faces.
But Holbrooke was confident that the Pakistanis would overcome the colossal devastation brought by the relentless monsoon flooding.
“Pakistan is resilient country, resilient people. They need international assistance but they will pull themselves back together,” the diplomat said.
“Our first thought is how to help the people of Pakistan and we are focused on that,” he declared, adding that the United States cares about the victims of the disaster, the marooned people clinging to their rooftops.
“And when the water subsides, we have got a monumental reconstruction challenge, bigger than Swat last year---- reconstruction cost will exceed the relief effort - but first we have to save people.”
The spceial envoy, who also met with Pakistan Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamer Suleman, said the visitng official also emphasized the importance of helicopters in carrying out relief and rescue work over vast flooded territories.
He also appealed to the people incluing the Pakistani-Americans to donate generaously to flood relief. He vowed to mobilize the American business community toward flood relief contribution.
“We need to explain to the people that this is not just an other flood. This is a catastrophe. We know how serious it is. The President (Barack Obama), Secretary (Hillary Clinton) and I know how serious it is. We have to do some education,” he said, urging people in the United States to text word SWAT from their cell phone to number 50555 and contribute $ 10 each the assistance to be administered by UN High Commission for Refugees.
He said the Pakistani leaders are very concerned about this tragedy and there have been telephonic contacts with them.
Pakistan, he said, is confronted with a combination of of problems abut emphasized that Washington’s help for the country is not because of regional U.S. interests but for the sake of Pakistan and Pakistanis.
“That is why we have made Pakistan a focal point of our international efforts since Barack Obama became the president. But let me say clearly that we help Pakistan for its own sake, not because of Afghanistan or other neighbors. We are there for Pakistan and its people, with Kerry-Lugar-Berman legislation, with our helicopters, with our assistance. I know no country that faces more challenges. And in the midst of it the additional burder of floods is staggering. But the people of Pakistan are resilient and they will pull together, I am sure. But we have a big big job ahead of us.”
 
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