Winter weather presents new challenges for relief agencies

 - September 27, 2006, 5:41 AM

With 75,000 dead confirmed so far, relief efforts following October’s earthquake in Pakistan are moving into a new and more hazardous phase. Thierry Lakahinsky of Belgium’s Skytech said that with winter setting in, the death toll will probably rise. “Everybody is anxious to see how the flying conditions will be affected by the incoming weather.”

Skytech is under contract to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which currently has one Mi-26T, an Mi-8T, two Puma 330s, a Super Puma and three Mi-17s under renewable monthly contracts. The UN’s World Food Program was said to be organizing a tender for three more Mi-17s, and Russia’s state emergency response ministry has an Mi-26T in the affected region, after flying to Islamabad four days after the earthquake. Pilots estimate that as many as 70 smaller helicopters are also involved in the relief effort.

Philanthropist the Aga Khan’s fleet of four AB139s has also been used extensively. Originally acquired this year to ferry personnel and material involved in building three University of Central Asia campuses, the quartet was assembled to operate from Islamabad, the focal point of the relief efforts.

In the first month of relief operations, the four aircraft flew l,636 sorties in 457 flying hours, transporting 1,050 injured people, 3,300 passengers and 462 tons of materials, medicine and food.