Archive for September 28, 2010
Afghan, Chinese Helicopters Join Pakistan Flood Relief
Rescue and relief efforts continue in flood-ravaged Pakistan more than a month after heavier-than-usual monsoon rains caused the Indus River and its tributaries to overflow.
The U.S. Defense Department says about eight million pounds of food and relief supplies have been delivered by Air Force C-130 and C-17 cargo aircraft as well as Army, Navy and Marine Corps helicopters.
The helicopters have also rescued nearly 17,000 people in Pakistan. Aerial operations in Pakistan can be tricky. Much of the country’s infrastucture was washed away in the floods. There is also the challenge of fog, haze, rough terrain and high altitude mountain passes and landing zones. The Marine Corps choppers came in on the USS Peleliu (LHA5) and the USS Kearsarge (LHD3), two Navy amphibious assault ships. The latest Army helos were flown in from Fort Wainwright, Alaska on Air Force C-17s and C-5s of the 732nd Air Mobility Squadron.
More than 1,700 people died and millions have been made homeless by the rising waters that, at their height, flooded more than 20 percent of Pakistan. The U.S. has increased its pledge of Pakistan relief aid to $345 million. Britain, which has also sent relief supplies on Royal Air Force C-17 cargo aircraft has pledged more than $200 million in assistance. And Royal Australian Air Force C-17s have also flown in relief supplies and personnel
U.S. officials, particularly Richard Holbrooke, the special envoy to Pakistan, are concerned that the Pakistani public is unaware of just how much assistance Washington is providing, according to an Associated Press report. Those officials, who want to shore up Pakistani support for U.S. counter insurgency efforts against the Taliban and al Qaeda, are urging international aid groups to be more open about U.S. funding for their efforts. But some relief groups are resisting, fearing too close a link with a government that is hunting militants with drone-fired missiles in Pakistan border areas could endanger their staffers.
Meanwhile, military helicopters from Afghanistan and China have just returned from relief missions to Pakistan. In their first-such mission outside China, four helicopters of the People’s Liberation Army flew rescue and relief missions in Pakistan. Click here to see photos from the People’s Daily.
According to Chinese and Pakistani press reports, the PLA helos — belonging to the Xinjiang military area command — were dispatched from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Sept. 21.
Afghan National Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi was on hand to welcome the crews of four Afghan Air Force Mi-17 helicopters back to Kabul in early September after 26 days in Pakistan evacuating stranded flood victims and carrying food, water and first aid supplies. The 22 crew members flew more than 400 sorties, rescuing 120 stranded Pakistanis and delivering more than 188 tons of food, medical equipment and shelter supplies. They also transported 1,904 aid workers and other passengers.
The Afghan Air Force (AAF) has grown to almost 5,000 airmen and 50 aircraft since the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan command started up in November. In July, AAF Mi-17s were needed to rescue Afghan flood refugees (see photo below).