NATO said Saturday its massive relief operation in northwestern Pakistan and Kashmir to help survivors of the Oct. 8 quake has reached its peak, with doctors and engineers repairing roads, schools and bridges before the harsh winter sets in. NATO has said it will wrap up its operation in Pakistan on Feb. 1 at the end of a 90-day mandate.
On Saturday, the military alliance said the full contingent of Italian engineers assigned to the NATO Disaster Relief Team had arrived in Pakistan as of Dec. 2. They are among more than 1,000 NATO personnel in the region. The engineers brought with them 136 trucks, including dump trucks, trailers, lift trailers, excavators and bulldozers.
"This heavy machinery is essential to expedite the relief efforts," NATO said in a statement. It said the NATO airlift has moved about 3,000 tons of tents, blankets, stoves and food into Pakistan on more than 153 flights from Europe.
The aid flights have carried more than 16,000 tents, 500,000 blankets, and nearly 17,000 stoves and heaters. They also flew in more than 31,500 mattresses, 3,900 sleeping bags and tons of medical supplies, it said. NATO doctors at a field hospital set up in the town of Bagh in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir said they have treated 4,015 patients.
NATO's mobile medical units also were treating survivors. "NATO engineers are also supporting the Pakistani army in Operation Winter Race," the statement said, adding that the aim of the operation was to set up shelters for people living in the mountains before the snow sets in.
An estimated 87,000 people were killed and the homes of 3.5 million others were destroyed when the magnitude-7.6 quake struck Pakistan and Kashmir. Since then, many foreign countries, aid agencies and individuals have been helping provide food and shelter to survivors in about 40 overcrowded camps.
"There is no question that living conditions in the camps, in the mountains, where these people have lost their homes, are very harsh," said Munir Safieldin, head of UNICEF in Muzaffarabad. "Definitely, rains and snow will make life more difficult," he said, adding there was concern about pneumonia and cold, especially among an estimated 1.2 million homeless children, reports the AP. N.U.