WASHINGTON (NNS) -- American helicopters are running sorties "from dawn till dusk," the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan said during a news conference Oct. 20.
Speaking at Chaklala Air Base, Pakistan, Ryan C. Crocker said 12 U.S. military helicopters are operating in the earthquake-affected area now, and more are on the way.
Pakistani authorities said the magnitude 7.6 quake that struck killed almost 80,000 men, women and children. With winter settling in on Kashmir, the plight of those left homeless becomes acute, officials said.
Helicopters are providing a genuine lifeline, as the quake destroyed or blocked primary and secondary roads into and around the region. Pakistani choppers began flying immediately in efforts to get food, water and medical supplies to the towns and villages. U.S. helicopters from Afghanistan arrived the day after the Oct. 8 quake and began immediately ferrying relief supplies and evacuating those injured in the catastrophe.
The choppers also are ferrying in medical personnel to establish aid stations in the region. More U.S. choppers will arrive soon. These aircraft alone have delivered more than 1.2 million pounds of supplies, and they have recovered more than 1,900 casualties.
In addition to the U.S. military helicopters, the U.S. has provided two contract helicopters and five helicopters that normally support Pakistan's counternarcotics efforts. "These are American airframes with Pakistani crews," Crocker said.
About 400 U.S. civilian and military personnel are helping at the Chaklala Air Base relief center. Chaklala also is the headquarters for the U.S. military contribution to the Disaster Assistance Center.
Rear Adm. Michael A. LeFever, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 1, said the U.S. military has brought in more than 1,200 tons of relief supplies, and those flights continue at the rate of four or five per day.
The U.S. military is deploying a mobile Army surgical hospital to the region shortly. Some advance elements of the unit already are in the country.
U.S. Navy Seabees are deploying to the region as well. "They will team up with Pakistani engineers, and they will move forward jointly in the process of clearing roads," Crocker said.
Much of the U.S. assistance to Pakistan comes from private organizations and companies, Crocker said. "What this shows is the government and people of America have been struck deeply by the magnitude of what has happened here," he said. "We're here now in the relief operation, we will also be present as Pakistan moves ahead to recovery and reconstruction."
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