Pakistani Flood Waters Just Beginning to Recede

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2010 — Flood waters are just begin­ning to recede in Pak­istan, but it will be months before the full extent of the dam­age can be assessed, U.S. offi­cials said.

Between 15 mil­lion and 20 mil­lion Pak­ista­nis have been impact­ed by the flood­ing and about 1,500 have been killed. The Unit­ed States imme­di­ate­ly pledged its sup­port and the U.S. Embassy in Islam­abad began coor­di­nat­ing mis­sions with the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment. Amer­i­can human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance for Pak­istan has come at the request of its gov­ern­ment, offi­cials said.

Over­all, the Unit­ed States is pro­vid­ing $200 mil­lion in flood-relief aid to Pak­istan – includ­ing $10 mil­lion in oper­a­tions costs for air­craft.

Heavy mon­soon rains pro­duced an influx of water that began over­flow­ing the banks of the Indus Riv­er and its trib­u­taries at the end of July. Since then, U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel have been work­ing con­tin­u­ous­ly to pro­vide aid and relief to Pak­ista­nis strick­en by the flood, Defense Depart­ment offi­cials said. Six U.S. Army heli­copters and crews based in Afghanistan began the aid effort in Pak­istan on Aug. 3. Amer­i­can mil­i­tary air­crews flew across Khy­ber-Pah­tunkhwa province and res­cued thou­sands of peo­ple strand­ed by flood waters as unusu­al­ly heavy mon­soon rains pum­meled the north­west­ern por­tion of Pak­istan.

On July 31, U.S. mil­i­tary began air­lift­ing Halal — reli­gious­ly per­mit­ted — meals to a Pak­istani air base locat­ed near Islam­abad, the country’s cap­i­tal city.

Nine­teen heli­copters from the USS Peleliu began fly­ing mis­sions in sup­port of Pak­istani efforts soon after, allow­ing the Army heli­copters to return to mis­sions in Afghanistan. Air Force C-130s also began shut­tling imme­di­ate human­i­tar­i­an goods and U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment sup­plies around Pak­istan.

Yes­ter­day, the Pen­ta­gon announced that 18 heli­copters from Alas­ka – 10 Chi­nooks and eight Black Hawks – will deploy to Pak­istan and begin oper­a­tions in mid-Sep­tem­ber. The USS Kearsarge has deployed ear­ly and will relieve the Peleliu some­time at the end of Sep­tem­ber.

Today, U.S. heli­copters res­cued 625 peo­ple and flew in 114,000 pounds of sup­plies. Afghanistan-based C-130s deliv­ered about 55,000 pounds of goods.

Over­all, U.S. heli­copters have res­cued 9,433 peo­ple and flown in 1.7 mil­lion pounds of goods. C-130s have deliv­ered 985,000 pounds of sup­plies since oper­a­tions began, said Pen­ta­gon spokesman Marine Col. Dave Lapan.

U.S. sup­port will con­tin­ue as long as the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment needs – and requests – the help.

“We’ve respond­ed imme­di­ate­ly to Pakistan’s requests for sup­port as they’ve come in,” Lapan said. “With regard to the arrival of our heli­copters, it’s been the plan all along to bring these air­craft into Pak­istan in a phased approach to ensure base infra­struc­ture is ready to sup­port the addi­tion­al heli­copters and asso­ci­at­ed per­son­nel.” Four U.S. Marine heli­copters are slat­ed to arrive in Pak­istan lat­er in the week to assist with flood-relief oper­a­tions.

It’s impor­tant to note that the flood­ing in Pak­istan has been an evolv­ing sit­u­a­tion, Lapan said. Unlike the 2005 earth­quake, he said, the impact of the cur­rent Pak­istan floods “was not imme­di­ate and assess­ments of dam­age and sup­port require­ments have tak­en longer due to the scope and dura­tion of the prob­lem.

“We con­tin­ue to remain in close con­tact with the Pak­istan gov­ern­ment to be respon­sive to their needs,” he added, “which will like­ly evolve over time as the flood waters recede and recov­ery begins.”

The flood waters in Pak­istan spread from the north­west­ern part of the coun­try down the Indus Riv­er to the more pop­u­lat­ed states of Pun­jab, Balochis­tan and Sindh. Aside from the loss of life, hun­dreds of thou­sands of build­ings, miles of roads and rail­road tracks, lev­ees, dams and oth­er infra­struc­ture projects suf­fered dam­age. Mil­lions of Pak­ista­nis ren­dered home­less by the floods are camp­ing along the lim­it­ed high ground that exists in cer­tain areas.

Now the waters are start­ing to recede. But the floods that washed out bridges and roads have made whole areas of Pak­istan impas­si­ble. U.S. offi­cials said that the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan can count on Amer­i­can sup­port as it begins its long-term recov­ery.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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