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Forecast: accumulating exhaustion

"Forecast: accumulating exhaustion" Continued...

Issue: "Stand in the gap," Nov. 5, 2005

For Dr. Chiles, who is helping coordinate Samaritan's relief work, this is the worst catastrophe he has seen in 10 years of hitting disaster sites. So many of the buildings had reinforced concrete, the rubble is almost impossible to dig through. He and his team are distributing supplies next to a school building under which some 200 boys and girls died-most of the school's students. If they look carefully, they can see textbooks buried under the debris.

Aid groups and the United Nations have been warning that the Pakistan quake is worse than Southeast Asia's tsunami. They are racing against a coming mountain winter to supply tents and other shelter to survivors, many of whom are in remote villages that have not yet been reached.

The steep mountain terrain is spurring innovation: The Pakistani military has been using mules to reach inaccessible points, while helicopters unable to land drop relief supplies and hope for the best. Mercy Corps, which has worked in northern Pakistan since 1985, has been using knowledgeable local teenage Boy Scouts to scope out some areas.

Meanwhile, the UN doubled its aid appeal to $550 million on Oct. 26, saying between 2 million and 3 million homeless people desperately need aid. Otherwise, diseases such as pneumonia may quickly take root.

Aid agencies estimate some 600,000 tents are needed-a figure virtually impossible to supply. They have to hope plastic sheeting will suffice, and that relief convoys clogging the roads will eventually reach all the survivors. As the grief swells, time dwindles.

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