11 October 2005

United Nations Emergency Team Assisting Government of Pakistan Following Earthquake

GENEVA/NEW YORK, 9 October (OCHA) -- The United Nations emergency team has set up a coordination centre in Islamabad and an on-site coordination centre in the Muzaffarabad area today to assist in the response to the major earthquake that struck the country.  The United Nations team also set up a reception centre at Islamabad airport in order to assist national authorities to deal effectively with international aid.

 The eight-member United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team arrived today to assist with ongoing assessment and coordination work, in response to a request made by the Government of Pakistan.  Six additional supporting members are expected later today.

Strong tremors, recorded at a magnitude of 7.4 on the Richter scale, were felt in northern Pakistan on the morning of 8 October, rocking buildings in the capital Islamabad, Muzaffarabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Peshawar.  There have been more than 10 aftershocks of magnitudes from 5.2 to 6.3.  The army and the State administration continue to conduct rescue and relief operations.  Massive destruction has taken place in six northern districts of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and in five districts of Jammu and Kashmir State, including Muzaffarabad.  Most of the multi-story buildings and mud houses have collapsed, and large-scale casualties and injuries have been reported.  An 11-story residential apartment building collapsed in Islamabad.

The high intensity of the earthquake in Pakistan was also felt in Afghanistan and across northern India.  In India, where buildings have collapsed, official reports confirm the death of more than 200 people and more than 400 injured.  There is minor damage in Afghanistan where two people are reported to have been killed.

Pakistan's national Emergency Relief Cell is dispatching 12 truckloads of relief supplies, six each to NWFP and to Jammu and Kashmir.  Further dispatches will be made based on the assessment from the affected district administrations.

In Islamabad yesterday, the United Nations Disaster Management Team (UNDMT) met with most of the international and national non-governmental organizations working in the field of humanitarian assistance. The UNDMT constituted three United Nations inter-agency rapid assessment teams:  the first is led by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to be fielded to NWFP; the second by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to Jammu and Kashmir; and the third by the International Non-Governmental Organizations Forum to the northern areas.  The teams were deployed today.  The Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has also dispatched two assessment teams, which will cover various areas, including Mansehra, Swat and Batgram.

The priorities highlighted by the Government of Pakistan for cooperation and support by the United Nations and donor community are in immediate relief response, search & rescue, and needs assessment.

Turkey, France, United Kingdom, China, Germany, Japan, Republic of Korea and Russia, among others, have sent search-and-rescue teams to the affected areas in Pakistan.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has already released a $100,000 emergency cash grant for immediate delivery of relief aid.  The Government of Switzerland provided air transport for the UNDAC team.

For further information, please call Elizabeth Byrs, OCHA-Geneva, tel.: +41 22 917 2653, cell.:  +41 79 473 4570; Stephanie Bunker, OCHA-New York, tel.: +1 917 367 5126, cell.:  +1 917 892 1679; or Kristen Knutson, OCHA-New York, tel.:  +1 917 367 9262.

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