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'It's still raining in Pak; dams are in danger'

August 10, 2010 08:11 IST

Noting that United States President Barack Obama has directed his administration to stand with the people of Pakistan, a top American official has said Washington would support them in battling the country's worst flooding in the recent times.

"President Obama has directed his Administration to stand with the Pakistani people and to assist them as they confront the worst flooding in Pakistan's history," National Security Advisor Gen James Jones said in a statement.

"Knowing that continuing heavy monsoon rains over the next few days will only add to the challenges of this humanitarian crisis, the United States Government has been rushing a wide range of assistance to the Pakistani people in close coordination with the Government of Pakistan," he said.

Jones said in line with the deepening partnership between the two nations, the US will continue to assist Pakistan in their response to this crisis.

Washington has provided an additional $35 million in financial aid to the $7.5 million that was already designated to assist people in the affected area, as well as food, shelter, medical supplies and other vital items.

The funding is being provided by the US Agency for International Development to established international and Pakistani relief organisations with substantial experience on the ground in the affected areas.

"In addition, 436,000 halal meals, 12 pre-fabricated bridges, 14 rescue boats, 6 large scale water filtration units and a 25kw generator have been delivered to support flood relief efforts. US helicopters are supporting rescue efforts and have saved more than 1000 to date," he said.

"They and US military aircraft, including six US Army helicopters, will continue to work closely with our Pakistani allies to help evacuate stranded citizens and transport urgently needed supplies to hard hit areas."

"To further coordinate US relief efforts and to assist in the assessment of the immediate response and longer term recovery needs, we have deployed additional US personnel to work alongside Pakistani national and provincial disaster management officials," Jones said.

The United States stands with Pakistani authorities as they face difficult challenges this natural disaster posed and will continue to work with the global community to increase assistance, the official added.

Similarly, the United States has urged its key allies not to move a step ahead from merely issuing a statement and do something about the devastating flood in Pakistan.

"We are calling on other governments -- and when I say calling, I mean, I'm specifically calling some of our key allies, not just making a general statement, to do something about it," Special US Representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, told reporters at a State Department news conference.

Holbrooke said this is a major international humanitarian crisis that needs to be addresses on an urgent basis.

"It is a major international humanitarian crisis that the world must rally to, just as we did for Pakistan and Swat last year and in the earthquake five years ago," he said.

"We are in the process of extended meetings to mobilise the business community, many of whom have said to us that they're tapped out because of what they already did for Haiti. We understand that issue because Haiti is an ongoing problem and a very important issue."

The United States, he said, is focused right now on doing everything it can for Pakistan.

"I stress to all of you, the waters are still rising. It's still raining. The dams are in danger. This is not over. An earthquake happens and then you start rebuilding; this thing is still developing, and it is at the top of the agenda of the Secretary of State and Raj Shah and I and our colleagues are focused on, and the Pentagon," he asserted.

"The rains are continuing, the great dam above Sindh is in danger. If it breaks, the situation will reach an even more catastrophic level. It's already exceeded in the number of people affected the 2005 earthquake, but not as many people dead -- of course, that was 75,000. It is a major international humanitarian catastrophe."

The senior official said the US is looking for ways to give additional helicopter support immediately.

"Although that's tough, too, because of the weather conditions, very dangerous. We are rushing foodstuffs out of our Food for Peace program, some of which are forward-position in Pakistan, others are in the Gulf," he added.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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