The devastating earthquake in Pakistan’s northern mountains is turning into one of the toughest relief operations the world has ever known.
Nearly 80,000 are thought to have died and many more are slowly succumbing to starvation, injuries and exposure to freezing temperatures and torrential rain.
There has been a fair amount of idiotic political posturing between members of the various government bodies, and international aid agencies have been struggling to deal with that and a world weary of one disaster after another.
The UN has been wailing loudly about the calamity, saying that time is fast running out and the earthquake will make the misery of the tsunami look trivial by comparison.
The problem with this particular nightmare is that not enough westerners have been affected (all disasters, like politics, are local), plus the hurricane season is cleaning up on the news schedules, but the oil rich gulf coast counts for more in the eyes of the deep-pocket philanthropists.
2005 has been anything but a quiet year (and it isn’t over yet). Too many mountains, not enough helicopters (plenty of crashes too; the thin air up there is tricky to fly in and adequate landing zones are few and far between) as well as useless roads have made it a bit of a nightmare. Some of the soldiers trying to reach the affected sites have themselves gotten into trouble and ended up needing to be rescued.
The Red Cross planned to deliver 30,000 tents, but had managed to get only 200 out so far and people in the mountains were building shelters from the ruins of their homes.
Kashmir is a south Asian version of happy valley and both India and Pakistan have been swapping bombs and bullets (and almost nuclear warheads) all over the place since before Gandhi sprouted wings and floated off to that abode of peace in the clouds to hang out with Mother Theresa and Jerry Garcia.
The constant guerilla warfare in the area hasn’t helped either; although India and Pakistan were quick to restore the well tapped telephone links between the two Kashmirs, a major psychological lift. India opened lines blocked 16 years ago after the eruption of a rebellion that New Delhi accuses Pakistan of backing. The earthquake didn’t affect the guerillas. They killed a few cops and soldiers as the NGOs went begging for pack mules.
Sympathy is in limited supply at the moment and I suppose that the $25 Million dollar bounty that is on Osama’s skull (not to mention Zawahiri and Zarqawi and a couple of other miscreants) would buy quite a lot of useful medicines and anyway, isn’t the Yemeni’s son supposed to be one of the richest men in that neck of the woods/mountains?
***Al-Qaeda’s number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, recently called on all Muslims to channel help to victims of Pakistan’s devastating quake, in a videotape aired on Al-Jazeera television, which is a bit rich, given that many of his followers continue to kill scores of their own brethren in places like Iraq and Afghanistan every day. But maybe natural disasters are altogether another thing.
However, Zawahiri’s telethon on Al Jazeera proved that his earthquake-affected hole in the hills wasn’t too badly damaged, proving that if Mother Nature and Daisy Cutters (BLU-82B) can’t take them out, then it begs the question….who can?
Oh yeah, and one last thing… The rumour about Osama playing Gollum in the new Peter Jackson sequel to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, is absolutely not true.