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I am sure many of you are following the recent tragedy that has befallen Pakistan, India, and parts of Afghanistan recently. I wanted to thank several of you who have written to me, personally, and expressed grief and condolences on the tremendous loss of life and property in Pakistan. Yes, my immediate family is safe but I've lost an ex-colleague. There is probably no one in Pakistan that hasn't lost or known someone who has lost a loved one. I am constantly in touch with people in Pakistan, and the Pakistani Diaspora here. The loss of life and property is really beyond expectations. The unofficial estimates right now put the total death toll at 40,000 and many insiders are expecting that to double as some of the more inaccessible areas in the North are accessed. Around 50,000 people have been reported to have injured and over 2 million people are homeless. The most tragic part about the whole thing is that, like the recent damage by Hurricane Katrina, this calamity too has fallen upon the most poor and improvished people of Pakistan. Of that already vulnerable population, the most tragically affected are small school going children. Entire schools, both girls and boys, have collapsed with hundreds of children inside them—many of whom are still buried alive in the rubble. Only today, a French team of rescuers helped retrieve 5 children from under a school's rubble who only had minor injuries and would have died in a day or two. Many many more WILL die in the next few days.
The Magnitude of the crisis has overwhelmed the Pakistani authorities who have desperately sought international assistance. Pakistan urgently needs helicopters and heavy earth moving machinery to rescue those lying under the rubble and are still alive. People are literally calling on cell-phones from under the rubble desperately begging those outside to rescue them but the progress on that has been very slow. We've also seen unbelievable scenes of magnanimity as people within Pakistan and around the world have opened their hearts and purses for those in need. In a solitary incidence, for example, the Pakistani Air force asked the people to deposit relief goods—food, blankets, tents, water, medicine etc.—at an airbase in Karachi for uplift to the disaster area. They were expecting to get a plane-load worth of goods ready to be shipped by the end of the day. By last count, they had 25 plane-loads of relief goods and they are figuring out how to fly all of that to the disaster area. Yet, more is less in the disaster of this magnitude. Winter is just round the corner and winter is often very cruel in the Himalayan mountains. Many people are going to die if not provided with adequate shelter and immediate assistance.
I would like to thank all of you, my friends and all Americans, for remembering Pakistani people in this time of need and tragedy. There are two definite ways any of you, who may wish to actively help out, can do so:
I cannot over emphasize the importance of this moment—the largest natural disaster and relief operation in Pakistan's history—in building bridges of understanding and support between people, nations, and civilizations. I hope Americans, and people around the world, would open their hearts as we pass through this most critical juncture of our lives. Thanks once again for all your support and generosity.
Pardee RAND Graduate School ,
Santa Monica, CA 90401