On August 6, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson participated in a teleconference briefing to provide an update on U.S. relief efforts in Pakistan. Ambassador Patterson began by outlining the conditions in Pakistan. She said:
"This year the monsoon rains arrived with a vengeance. The average monthly rainfall in August has been calculated by the weather service at about two and a half inches. However, from July 28th to 30th -- three days -- northern Pakistan received eight inches of rain. You know about the terrible air crash that took place near Islamabad on July 28th in torrential rains. And with a few exceptions, it hasn't stopped raining. More rain is anticipated tomorrow and Sunday, and the consequence has been the worst flood in Pakistan in 80 years.
"What makes this unique is the scale of the disaster and its effect throughout the entire country. The earthquake and the displacement of 2 million people from the Swat Valley were more localized. So while the loss of life may -- the loss of life in this disaster may be less, the economic impact and the need for reconstruction assistance over time could well be greater.
"The UN now estimates that nearly 1,500 people were killed, a million people remain homeless, and 4.5 million people have been affected across the country as the initial flood waters moves through the Indus River system toward the Arabian Sea. It would be as if the Missouri, Arkansas, and Red Rivers all overflowed at once and then dumped huge amounts of water and debris into the Mississippi.
"The number of affected people is expected to rise to 6 million by the end of the week. Countrywide, 92 bridges have been destroyed, and more than 200 major roads have been damaged. There are four major dams at risk. Crop and livestock loss will affect long-term livelihood and food security. International organizations believe that up to 2.5 million people will require food assistance. We anticipate that with additional rains this weekend, waters will still be high next week."
Ambassador Patterson continued, "The U.S. engagement with this flood began last Friday, July 30th, when the Government of Pakistan asked that U.S. helicopters and aircraft, assigned to support the Pakistan interior ministry's air wing, support flood relief. We agreed immediately and began to consider what other ways we could help. In the meantime, these U.S. aircrafts have rescued over a thousand people and airlifted over 37,000 pounds of supplies.
"Our DOD colleagues, recognizing the growing crisis, immediately went on a search for emergency meal. On Saturday, U.S. aircrews aboard the U.S. Air Force C-130 and C-17 transport aircraft flew into Rawalpindi and delivered about 50,000 halal meals in support of a Pakistan Government request. That number grew through the week to nearly 436,000 meals.
"On Sunday, I received an urgent request from the government requesting helicopter support to reach stranded victims and to deliver supplies. Our colleagues at the NSC, State and Department of Defense, immediately swung into action. The four Chinook and two Black Hawk helicopters arrived in Pakistan on Wednesday, and would have been here even earlier but for weather delays. Yesterday, on their first efforts, they evacuated more than 800 people and transported 66,000 pounds of relief supplies. Today, unfortunately, bad weather has hindered operations.
"The U.S. has already committed $35 million in assistance to flood-affected populations. The money will be provided by USAID to international organizations and established Pakistani NGOs to provide food, health care, and shelter for those displaced by the floods. This is being supplemented by existing programs that we had in place to help many of these same people who were formerly displaced by fighting in Swat. And we are working now to identify gaps."
Ambassador Patterson concluded, "For the last week, the U.S. Government has been working to support Pakistan"s Government as it struggles to save lives and property. Secretary Clinton, who has been deeply engaged in building a strong relationship between the United States and Pakistan, has made our support for Pakistan in this time of crisis a priority. Our government is fortunate to have a number of people here and in Washington with substantial experience available to assist and support Pakistan, including several who were here during the earthquake. We are using the unique capabilities of our government to help save lives and to provide humanitarian assistance in full partnership with the Government of Pakistan."
Read the full transcript of the briefing here.