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Pakistan Quake Toll Exceeds 54,000

More people could die as a result of hunger, cold and injuries after the Pakistan earthquake than were killed during the initial disaster unless rich countries meeting in Geneva come up with more money fast, a top UN aid official said yesterday.


"The disaster is looming large. We have thousands and thousands of very vulnerable people," UN chief aid coordinator Rashid Khalikov said hours before 65 nations were to meet in Geneva to discuss how to help.


"This disaster may have the number of people who died after the disaster bigger than those killed by the earthquake," he said outside his tent office in the destroyed Pakistan-controlled Kashmir capital of Muzzafarabad.


Underscoring the physical difficulties, bad weather in the mountains grounded the vital helicopter fleet at the main airbase near Islamabad yesterday morning, although military spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Khalid Masood said flights could resume later.


With the known death toll at more than 54,000, relief workers have until the end of November to get hundreds of thousands of people under shelter, treat countless injured still untended and provide food to last the harsh winter, Khalikov said.


"What these communities will have by December 1 is what they will have to live with," he said amid a chorus of complaints that the world was not acting fast enough to tackle a relief operation more difficult than that after the Indian Ocean tsunami.


"It's not much time. We basically have four weeks to deliver," he said, complaining that the UN appeal for emergency relief had raised only about one-third of the US$312 million it sought.


"What we need from donors is that the time between pledge and disbursement should be one hour," Khalikov said.


Aid agency Oxfam was the latest to criticize rich countries for not coming up with more money faster, saying some European countries had not handed over a penny -- though as a bloc the EU has given money and is promising more.


"The logistical nightmare in Pakistan is bad enough without having to worry about funding shortfalls as well," Oxfam Policy Director Phil Bloomer said.


"Governments meeting in Geneva today must put their hands in their pockets and pay their fair share," he said.


"The public will be shocked that so many rich governments have given so little."


Oxfam said seven rich countries had so far given nothing to the UN appeal beyond their share of EU aid.


Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says it will cost more than US$5 billion to reconstruct the villages flattened across Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and the neighboring North West Frontier Province.


But right now, relief workers are racing against time to reach people cut off by the October 8 quake, which also left more than 75,000 people seriously injured.


(China Daily October 27, 2005)


Relief Efforts Gear up as Quake Death Exceeds 26,000
Aftershock Hits Pakistan as Aid Pours
Rescuers Wage Grim Battle to Find Survivors
Global Aid Critical to Earthquake Recovery
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