Ahad, Oktober 09, 2005

Doctors and medics treat people injured in a makeshift area outside a damaged hospital in Mansera, 75 km from Islamabad.

WORLD CAPITAL, October 8 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – The killer earthquake that battered vast areas across South East Asia Saturday, October 8, triggered an immediate relief and rescue drive across the globe.

The Irish government pledged an initial one million euros (1.2 million dollars) to assist with immediate needs to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake in northern Pakistan, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Development Cooperation Minister Conor Lenihan said the earthquake appeared to have had "devastating consequences" and there were initial needs for food, shelter and other basic requirements.

An earthquake measuring at least 7.6 on the Richter scale caused massive devastation across a swathe of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, leaving more than 1,800 dead with fears for many more.

Officials said the death toll topped 1,000 in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir alone, while more than 550 people died in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan.

Many people will have been left homeless and many others may still be missing and trapped in collapsed buildings," Lenihan said in a statement.

The initial funding will be available for the Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations.

"Funding will also be provided if necessary for coordination of the humanitarian effort through the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and for other needs as they become clearer," Lenihan said.

The quake is thought to be one of the most powerful to hit the south East Asia region in decades.

Rescue Teams

Meanwhile, a team of officers from Abu Dhabi police left for Pakistan to help in search and rescue operations, the official WAM news agency reported.

The 26-strong police rescue team will help search for survivors and treat the wounded from the earthquake, "in the first overseas mission on such a (large) scale," it said.

Oil-rich Abu Dhabi is the largest and wealthiest member of the seven-strong United Arab Emirates.

Similarly, a UN team left Switzerland for Islamabad to coordinate humanitarian assistance, a UN spokeswoman said.

"The plane left with seven experts on board... charged with setting up the first coordination and evaluation team," said UN spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs.

The Swiss plane was chartered by the OCHA.

Muslim Aid

Gul said Ankara had a "duty" to help earthquake areas. (Reuters)

Turkey, a frequent victim of earthquakes which have killed many thousands of people, also offered aid to fellow Muslim country Pakistan.

"We are ready to provide every sort of help," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said, adding that Ankara had a "duty" to do so.

Turkish civil defense and Red Crescent teams, experienced in working in earthquake zones, had been placed on the alert.

The Turkish Red Crescent will send a team of seven experts, medicines, food and hygienic materials to quake-hit Pakistan.

The seven disaster experts and aid materials will go to Pakistan in an airplane provided by the Turkish prime ministry, it said in a press release.

The Islamic Relief organization immediately posting a fund-raising appeal on its Web site.

The aid group said its staff are already in the affected region preparing to help the survivors.

The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) urged everyone to pray for those who lost their lives and for the people who are affected by the earthquake.

It called on British Muslims and non-Muslims alike to help with the massive relief effort needed by helping the aid agencies involved.

"(The disaster) would require the help of the international community to coordinate and fund relief efforts to those who need it most and we appeal to the British public to donate generously in this regard," said MAB’s President Ahmed Sheikh on the group's Web site.

The Muslim group has already begun contacting various charities to assess how it can help coordinate their efforts to bring immediate relief to those affected.

European Assistance

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, said up to three million euros (3.6 million dollars) could be approved within a day if requested by agencies working on the ground.

"We are all hoping that the news does not get steadily worse as the day progresses but we are fearful that the casualty figures may mount and that international support may be needed," said EU aid commissioner Louis Michel.

A spokesman said the commission's Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) was in touch with two organizations -- Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) Netherlands and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) -- about the crisis.

"It depends on what these organizations tell us they need," said Amadeu Altafaj, stressing that the two organizations were chosen because they are already on the ground.

"They can save more lives and faster. This is the priority of course," he told AFP.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said his country was "offering help to the Pakistani government and are ready to respond to all requests."

Straw said he had been "very distressed" to hear of the quake, particularly as "so many British people of Pakistani heritage come from the area affected or have relatives who live there."

In Berlin, Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Germany had immediately released 50,000 euros to be made available to Pakistani authorities through Berlin's embassy in Islamabad.

The German Red Cross would be working with the Pakistani Red Crescent to bring relief to affected areas, and Berlin was in contact with the UN with regard to further humanitarian action, he said.


Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz welcomed aid from foreign countries, adding his country may cooperate with rival India for relief work in the worst-hit area, which is near the Line of Control (LoC) between the Indian and Pakistani controlled zones of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

"We have set up the President's Relief Fund for the earthquake victims and we welcome financial donations for the fund," Aziz told the BBC.

He said Islamabad would need foreign help to rebuild homes in the worst affected areas, where he said more than half of the houses have been destroyed.

"It will be very difficult for them to survive" when the winter comes, he added.

"So we have said 'yes', we will take financial help from friends in the president's relief fund. That money can also be used to buy equipment locally like foodstuff and water etcetera."


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