- Title: PAKISTAN: NATO to begin winding down Pakistan earthquake relief operations
- Date: 9th January 2006
- Summary: (BN02) BANDI BAQALLAN, PAKISTANI-CONTROLLED KASHMIR (RECENT) (REUTERS) SMALL BOY WALKING IN SNOW (2 SHOTS) SNOW-COVERED MAKESHIFT SHELTERS PATCHED OUT OF SCRAP VARIOUS OF FAMILY OF QUAKE SURVIVORS INSIDE SHELTER (2 SHOTS) FAMILY STANDING OUTSIDE SHELTER
- Embargoed: 24th January 2006 12:00
- Location: Pakistan
- Country: Pakistan
- Topics: Disasters / Accidents / Natural catastrophes,Defence / Military
- Reuters ID: LVADR25GNRLOM05ZPXIVJ0Q11OSH
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: NATO will begin winding down emergency relief operations in Pakistani Kashmir later this week hopeful that stricken communities in the mountainous region are being supported well enough to survive the Himalayan winter.
"Our intention is to withdraw from Kashmir by the first of February, to have all our personnel and equipment out and then to be out of Pakistan by the middle of February," Air Commodore Andrew Walton, the British commander of the 1,000-strong NATO force in Pakistan, told Reuters on Sunday (January 08).
The NATO relief mission was given a 90-day mandate and the Pakistan government had decided that it would not ask the Western alliance to extend the mission.
Walton said some units would be brought down in the next couple of days from the mountains, where they have been helping to supply food and shelter and keep roads open.
The government requested NATO's help soon after the scale of the Oct. 8 earthquake became apparent, and a NATO air bridge to rush aid to Pakistan proved crucial for the relief effort.
More than 73,000 people died in Pakistani Kashmir and North West Frontier Province, and some 2.5 million were rendered homeless, sparking fears that the winter would bring a second wave of death.
Heavy snowfall and icy winds caused many tents to collapse or become waterlogged, but there were few reports of fatalities.
Some 18 people have died from pneumonia in the quake zone over the past six weeks, but the mortality rate has not been above average for the time of year.
Walton said although that suggested that mechanisms were in place to ensure that there was no further disaster as a result of the winter, it certainly did not mean that everything "would be wonderful during winter."
Walton said his troops had not encountered any animosity although Islamist opposition leaders had sought to sow distrust about NATO's motives for sending a force to Kashmir, saying it was just there to hunt al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
He said his forces were "struck" by the hospitality of the "tough and hardy" people of the quake zone and hoped they could come back in "a different time" to get to know them better.
The Pakistan earthquake was the first time NATO has mobilised to deal with disaster on such a scale, although the United States government had also requested the alliance's help during the Hurricane Katrina crisis last year.
Walton anticipated NATO will answer more such calls in the future.
"We've come with the right equipment, we've come with the right training and we've come able to deliver Nato as a force of good for the people of Pakistan," he said.
"In terms of whether this is something we can do in the future, I promise you if we were asked why would we say no?
I think if we were asked to help, it would be a political decision of course, but I can't see why we would not help," he added.
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