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Bulletin No. 12 - South Asia earthquake

20-10-2005 Operational Update

In the aftermath of the earthquake in South Asia, the ICRC has issued an emergency appeal for additional funding and is concentrating its relief efforts on providing medical assistance, shelter, food and water to those affected.

 Clearer picture emerges as ICRC surveys remote valleys  

With only a short time remaining before snow blocks access to mountainous areas, it is essential to identify the places most in need of aid in order to save as many lives as possible. Until now, reports had been rather sketchy about the situation in those remote areas.

For the first time, ICRC staff today were able to undertake much more detailed surveys of the situation in the remoter parts of Jhelum and Neelum valleys, as well as south of Muzaffarabad. This was made possible by the arrival of a third helicopter in the ICRC fleet.

One ICRC team flew deep into Neelum valley beyond the village of Jura, which basically marks the limit of massive destruction. Further north, destruction was less catastrophic, with houses damaged but often still standing. Villagers in that area are undertaking initial repairs, but said they still slept outside for fear of new aftershocks.

The helicopter then flew the team to the four main side valleys to the north of the river Neelum. They were able to touch down on several occasions and speak to villagers. The area is amongst the hardest hit in the valley – all public buildings and medical facilities were flattened by the earthquake. The main needs there are for shelter material and medical care. Water is still available since, though disrupted, the supply systems were not destroyed. Crops are also mainly intact.

 Dramatic scenes in the mountains  

Where army helicopter s had been able to land, the injured had already been evacuated. But there were smaller hamlets, in higher reaches, where villagers waved for the ICRC helicopter to land – visibly requesting help – but where landing proved impossible. These desperate places will remain extremely difficult to reach. Villagers will have to take their injured further down the valley for evacuation, but it is feared that for many victims this will be too late.

The area around these valleys, in particular near Bheri village, will constitute the ICRC's priority for aid over the coming days and weeks. The road there from Muzaffarabad has been severely damaged and for the time being it is unlikely to be accessible except by helicopter.

 Jhelum valley and the area south of Muzaffarabad  

Another ICRC team drove into Jhelum valley today and reached a place close to Chikar where an ICRC basic health-care unit has been set up. The trip demonstrated that road access is possible. This will facilitate delivery of aid.

Most villagers along the road reported that they had been assisted in one way or another, but they still lacked tents. They stressed that villages higher up in the mountains were in the greatest need.

A third ICRC team flew to a mountainous region south of Muzaffarabad and up a side valley, near the village of Gulian. They found major destruction in the area.

The remote mountain villages in these areas will constitute the second ICRC priority. It plans to use helicopters in the coming days to fly in aid and further identify places requiring assistance.

 Family links  

In the villages reached by helicopter , ICRC teams used satellite telephones to enable over a dozen families to reassure relatives in Pakistan and abroad that they were alive.

    

 Basic health-care unit in Chikar  

On this fourth day of work at the ICRC's basic health-care unit in Chikar, in the Jhelum valley, the number of people requiring treatment dropped for the first time. Close to 400 people have been treated at the facility so far. An ICRC helicopter flew 33 serious cases from Chikar to Muzaffarabad today.

    

- Read a brief

  interview with the speaker of the Pakistan's national assembly, the Honourable Chaudhry Amir Hussain, who have met with ICRC Vice-President Jacques Forster at the organization's Geneva headquarters to discuss the organization's relief work following the earthquake.

For further information, please contact:

 Islamabad / Pakistan  

 Leyla Berlemont  

 sat. phone: ++ 88 216 89 80 41 45  

 
   attn: L. Berlemont

(ICRC Islamabad central tel: ++92 51 282 47 80 - 282 47 52)

Languages: English/French/Arabic

 Muzaffarabad / Pakistan-administered Kashmir  

 Olivier Moeckli or Raza Hamdani  

 sat. phone: ++ 88 216 511 012 97  

    

    

 New Delhi / India  

 Caspar Landolt  

 mobile: ++ 91 98 11 80 66 33  

 
   

(ICRC New Delhi central tel: ++91 11 24 35 23 38/97 - 24 35 43 94/95/96)

Languages: English/French/German/Portuguese

 Geneva / Switzerland  

 Vincent Lusser  

 mobile: ++41 79 217 32 64  

Languages: English/French/German    

    

 ICRC Geneva press secretariat  

 tel: ++41 22 730 34 43  

 
   

Pakistan: GMT + 5 hrs; India: GMT + 5.5 hrs; Geneva: GMT + 2hrs.