Slow Recovery in Pakistan
[Sorry, the video for this story has expired, but you can still read the transcript below. ]
JONATHAN MILLER: They are exhausted; many almost past caring: These, the unreached, now finally within reach of safety. But tens of thousands of others — injured, sick, cold and hungry left behind. A great exodus, escaping wrecked remote villages before the angel of death sweeps through for a second time.
The brutal Himalayan winter now threatens to kill those who the quake spared. Samar and his two little boys have walked for three days; their mother dead, everything destroyed. “No tents, no food, no medicine, nothing,” Mohammed Massamar told us. “It’s terrible back there.”
He’s carried Kyran for 80 kilometers, other family members, some are behind him, pushed to the limits of endurance.
A long slog through the Hindu Kush, sleeping shelterless, the emergency that won’t go away.
Normally three weeks after, the rescue stage would long be over. For those cut off by huge landslides the rescue has barely started here. They’re on their own.
For those left behind, time is fast running out. The U.N. secretary-general called this a tragedy whose scale deifies our darkest imagination, and that is a tragedy that is now being realized.
Many who’ve made the exhausting trek out head straight back, loaded with tents blankets, food. Mule trains and helicopters have failed to reach enough survivors fast enough — hypothermia, pneumonia now killing alongside cholera and tetanus.
MAN: They will die. It is the very cold. It’s very cold out here, the snow, the frost.
JONATHAN MILLER: So desperate are they to clear the one fractured lifeline up the valley that they’re taking huge risks, earthmovers triggering fresh landslides but the race against time proceeding at a snail’s pace.
It’s taken three weeks to blast and bulldoze 15 miles — large sections of road swept like cars, homes, schools, entire villages 2,000 feet straight down into the gorge. The army reckons in another two weeks they will be done.
GEN. ASIF ALI, Pakistani Army: The best thing will be to open up the roads. That’s the impression, to do it as soon as possible.
JONATHAN MILLER: The man in the blue shirt with the brigadier, a civil engineer from Transport for London armed with a 300,000 pound grant from the British charity Islamic Relief, Chamoud Ahmed, has hired dozens of bulldozers from all over Pakistan, realizing that unless the road is cleared, you can’t get aid in, and people out. Down there the road has actually stopped and fallen about 500 meters down into the valley, right down into the bottom of the valley.
After filming one of Chamoud’s drivers attacking this landslide, we walked on up to the site. As we got there, a section of bolder crashed down, trapping the bulldozer.
Those who do make it out and up here, Balakot, gateway to the Kagan Valley and flattened by the quake. It’s no haven for those who fled over the mountains. In fact, in three weeks, not much has changed — people still camped on the ruins that still entomb their dead.
JIM LEHRER: Ray Suarez has part two of this story. Earlier this evening he talked with Jan Egeland, the United Nations’ undersecretary general, and its emergency relief coordinator.
RAY SUAREZ: Jan Egeland, welcome. Our report from northern Pakistan, emphasized the coming, harsh winter weather. How much time do you have to get people who are living out in the open into shelter?
JAN EGELAND: Very little time. Some say three weeks, some say five. It’s a question of a race against time, and a cruel deadline at the end of this — these few weeks, which means life or death for potentially tens of thousands of people. We reckon there are at least 200,000 people above 5,000 feet, and there will be a lot of snow there.
RAY SUAREZ: Do you have a better idea than you did, let’s say, a week ago of where to go and where to find those people?
JAN EGELAND: Yes, we do. However, there are still countless villages that nobody has visited yet. Altogether, we think that three and a half million people have been severely affected, are homeless, virtually in about 15,000 villages. So this is a mega-disaster. It’s much bigger than we thought just ten days ago.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, why has it taken so long to get to the people who have not gotten any aid at all yet?
JAN EGELAND: Because this is the Himalaya Mountains. It’s worse than the Rocky Mountains. The climate is tougher. The roads, to start with, were few and narrow. Now, they are not just broken; they are destroyed in thousands of places.
So the one way we can get to them are either on foot or by mule or by helicopter. And they are in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands up there in these 15,000 villages. It’s a very harsh climate. It’s been raining, and now starting to snow in the last few days. I cannot remember ever this kind of a logistical nightmare in such a large operation.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, NATO has had a long-term presence next door in Afghanistan. Have you successfully reached an agreement with them on further aid?
JAN EGELAND: NATO did respond immediately with some very important helicopters from Afghanistan. The United States, Germany, and others gave helicopters immediately.
Since then, NATO has agreed to step up its efforts in both the air bridges, flying in from Europe, United Nations and other organizations’ relief supplies, that provided further helicopters, and they will also have provided engineering troops and medical troops.
But I think we are all doing too little. We’re doing too little combined as an international community because it’s too vast. We have 140,000 tents now in the area. Normally, that is more than enough for even large-scale emergencies. This is probably only one fourth of what is needed. And there are not enough tents on stock in the world that we know of to cover all the needs. This is the magnitude of the emergency.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, you’re the secretary-general’s representative on this relief mission. What have countries been it willing you in response to your request for more help?
JAN EGELAND: Well, all countries are very sympathetic to the relief effort. Everybody agrees that it’s a race against the clock. But too few are really, I think, stepping up to the plate in the way they should be. We had this year started with an unprecedented degree of generosity in the Indian Ocean tsunami. We had about 1,000 helicopters active from the countries concerned, and from the whole international community.
We have about one-tenth of this in this emergency, and we need helicopters just as badly. It’s been a bad year, too many disasters, too many ministries of development assistance have emptied their coffers. Others have been going elsewhere with their attention.
The media is not following it as we had your support in the tsunami. I think there’s a whole host of reasons that we are not getting more so far than about one fourth of what we’ve asked for, for the emergency phase in terms of money and resources.
RAY SUAREZ: Has geopolitics also entered into it? Have tensions along the border between India and Pakistan stopped you from using the resources on both sides of the line of control in the most efficient way possible?
JAN EGELAND: It hasn’t helped that this is an area of tension. To start with, few humanitarian and international relief organizations were represented in Kashmir, on either side of the border. This is the line of control, so called, which has very little exchange across the border. It took too long for the countries to agree on cooperation, but we’re very heartened now that both Pakistan and India say that there will be no political obstacles to the cooperation.
My point, as the emergency relief coordinator, not only in this but in all our relief efforts worldwide is that political consideration should never stop aid. We should immediately be able to flow over borders. But it seems like one of the strange and cruel oddities of this year is that the tsunami and these earthquakes happen in high-tension areas and it doesn’t help.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, what if you had all the money that you say you need, what could you be doing that you are not doing right now?
JAN EGELAND: One example, we would have contracted immediately a whole host of additional helicopters. Some of these are the very large cargo helicopters, and we would have been ferrying up into the mountains more shelter material, more tents, more food, more medicine. We would also have evacuated quicker wounded.
A child which has her hand broken can get the hand restored in good condition if she comes within the first two days or so. After that, the hand must be amputated. You come beyond a certain amount of days, and the child dies. And we have too many children now having amputated their limbs and too many children dying.
When I was there on day five of the emergency, my helicopter brought in emergency food. We brought out three children. The smaller child died. It was already too late. And this was day five.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, the term that I hear used around the U.N. is a second massive wave of death has been threatened. What are we talk about in terms of numbers at this point?
JAN EGELAND: Well, so far, we know that 80,000 people are confirmed injured, but there are many thousands, potentially tens of thousands up there in the mountains that are wounded we haven’t gotten to. About 58,000, probably very soon 60,000 people are confirmed dead. There are many dead under the rubble that we do not know of.
But the second wave of death are the people who could freeze to death, starve to death, or just be sick because of infected water because the emergency operation is not having been resourced enough, and not — and also not being able to go past the bottlenecks that would be in any kind of an operation to reach everybody in time.
RAY SUAREZ: Jan Egeland joining us from the United Nations, thanks for being with us, sir.
JAN EGELAND: Thank you.