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Bulletin No. 15 – South Asia earthquake

23-10-2005 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.

  ©ICRC/J. Björgvinsson/pk-e-00120    
ICRC field hospital in Muzaffarabad    
  ©ICRC/J. Björgvinsson/pk-e-00123    
ICRC field hospital in Muzaffarabad    
  ©ICRC/J. Björgvinsson/pk-e-00121    
ICRC field hospital in Muzaffarabad    

 ICRC field hospital continues work  


In its third day of activity, the ICRC field hospital in Muzaffarabad admitted 26 severely injured earthquake victims and performed 30 surgical operations. By the end of the day the hospital had 70 inpatients. Twelve patients had been discharged after treatment.

Two ambulances were hired locally to serve the hospital.

The ICRC field hospital was opened on 21 October. The structure, which consists of over 30 tents, is designed to be set up in 12 days in standard conditions. Despite the many difficulties encountered, it took no more than 13 days to erect the facility in Muzaffarabad.

 Medical staff set up "one-day" health facilities in Neelum and Jhelum valleys  


Two Finnish Red Cross medical teams were dispatched to the Neelum and Jhelum valleys for a second day in a row. After flying in by helicopter, they set up a light medical unit for the day to treat people on the spot while the helicopter was used to assess the situation in other places and fly out serious cases. At the end of the day, both teams were flown back to Muzaffarabad. This approach is being used while more permanent locations for basic health-care units are identified and prepared in the two valleys.

Today one team was based for the day in the village of Gujar Bandi (Jhelum valley), where it treated 186 patients. Half of them were suffering from earthquake-related injuries, such as infected wounds, while the other half were treated for common ailments. Three patients had to be evacuated by helicopter. One hundred patients had already been treated by the Finnish Red Cross team in Gujar Bandi yesterday. Eight of these were flown out to hospital.

Another medical team was active in Neelum valley, in the villages of Pattika and Nerpura. They treated 24 patients and evacuated six by helicopter.

A total of 21 people with serious injuries were evacuated by ICRC helicopters today from these and other places. Twelve were flown to Muzaffarabad while nine others were taken to Islamabad.

 Aid for villagers in Neelum valley  

In the Ghori side-valley, an ICRC team today distributed two tarpaulins and five blankets each to 360 families in Rajkot village. In three other communities in the valley, the ICRC worked with village elders and the authorities to draw up lists of beneficiaries and make other preparations for forthcoming relief operations.

Five hundred blankets were handed out in another five villages.

So far, over 8,200 persons have been assisted. Over the next week, the ICRC plans to come to the aid of between 1,200 and 1,500 families per day, weather permitting.

 Aid priorities  

ICRC staff are carefully identifying priority areas and planning distributions together with the local communities in order to ensure not only that relief goes to those who need it but also that the recipients know sufficient aid is on the way, thus avoiding tensions amongst villagers and disruption of the distributions.

Aid priorities are first and foremost shelter material (cited as the most important item by all communities interviewed). The second is winter clothing and footwear, the third soap, jerrycans and kitchen sets, and the fourth rice, lentils, ghee, salt, sugar and tea.

Logistical considerations are also important. Airlifts will concentrate first on tarpaulins, instead of tents, in order to optimize the use of cargo capacity and extend relief to the maximum number of households per flight.

Last but not least, practical constraints on the beneficiaries must also be considered. One example is rice: the package for each household weighs 90 kilos – a three-month ration – and should therefore be the sole item on the flight concerned so as to allow beneficiaries to carry it home before receiving the remaining foodstuffs. In addition, food will not be transported together with other items such as laundry soap, because of the risk of spillage and contamination.

A total of five helicopters (three MI-8s and two Pumas) are expected to be devoted entirely to relief flights as of next Tuesday. An additional aircraft should be dispatched later in the week.

 Water-treatment plant back in operation – distribution network badly damaged  

Following delivery of the materials needed to repair Muzaffarabad's water-treatment plant, ICRC engineers joined forces with the facility's staff in recent days to put the facility back into operation. Only when pumping resumed did the full extent of the damage to the city's water-distribution network became apparent, with about three quarters of the water pumped leaking out of damaged pipes.

Yesterday the ICRC delivered over 100 metres of pipe for urgent repairs to the distribution system. More aid, such as spare parts and chemic als, is planned for Muzaffarabad's water board.

ICRC water and sanitation teams are also working at the sites of the city's hospitals to repair systems there.


For further information, please contact:

 Islamabad / Pakistan  

 Leyla Berlemont  

 mobile +92 300 850 81 38  

 satellite. phone: ++88 216 89 80 41 45  

  attn: L. Berlemont

(ICRC Islamabad central tel. ++92 51 282 47 80 or 282 47 52)

Languages: English/French/Arabic



 Muzaffarabad / Pakistan-administered Kashmir  

 Raza Hamdani : mobile + 92 300 850 56 93  

 or Helena Laatio (ICRC/Finnish Red Cross), satellite phone +88 2165 420 7201  


 New Delhi / India  

 Caspar Landolt  

 mobile: ++91 98 11 80 66 33  


ICRC New Delhi central tel. ++91 11 24 35 23 38/97 or 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 hours; India: GMT + 5.5 hours; Geneva: GMT + 2 hours

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