HC Deb 05 February 2001 vol 362 cc407-9W
Mr. Blunt

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a field hospital immediately available to the Indian authorities for victim of the recent earthquake. [148263]

Mr. Gardiner

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what provision her Department is making to assist in the relief operations for the Indian earthquake. [148091]

Clare Short

DFID's emergency response centre has been working round the clock since the earthquake struck. With the assistance of the Ministry of Defence, we despatched on 27 January a UK search and rescue team of 69 personnel, available under our contingency arrangements, made up of 25 UK fire service volunteers from Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Greater Manchester, Chester and Leicestershire and specialist rescue organisations. Officials from my Department led the team. They have been working in close co-operation with the Indian authorities and have so far managed to rescue six people alive.

In a joint operation with my Department, 75 search and rescue personnel from the Russian Ministry of Emergencies (EMERCOM), funded by DFID, arrived in Bhachau on 28 January and have rescued nine persons to date. They also have with them an airmobile hospital. A second Russian aircraft, part-funded by my Department, is awaiting clearance from the Indian authorities to bring in 3,000 blankets and 45 family tents.

In the last 48 hours, we have despatched three aircraft carrying 1,200 tents and other shelter item from the DFID's emergency stockpile in Staffordshire. A fourth aircraft has also flown from Brindisi carrying medical supplies, trauma equipment and plastic sheeting. These supplies are already beginning to arrive in Ahmadabad and Bhuj. Further relief efforts will be co-ordinated by the UN.

We have allocated a total of £10 million to support this emergency relief effort without reducing our spending in other parts of India. Nearly £3 million of this has already been spent. We are in close contact with operational agencies, including the Red Cross, UNICEF, WHO, and a number of operational NGOs (Care, Save the Children, Christian Aid) to determine the provision of immediate relief items and medical assistance. The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), the UK umbrella organisation for a number of humanitarian NGOs, is launching a public appeal on Thursday 1 February.

The Indian Government did not immediately request assistance but, as the scale of the disaster became apparent, did so. Medical and para-medical personnel continue to assist local civilian and military personnel already engaged in the rescue effort. The Indian authorities are well organised and are providing food, army personnel, heavy lifting equipment, mobile operating theatres and medical supplies, but the scale of the emergency is such that some of the resources cannot be supplies, but the scale of the emergency is such that some of the resources cannot be supplied in the region. We are working closely with the Indian Government and operational agencies to support their efforts and to ensure that all those who survived the earthquake are provided with health care and other basic essentials until they can rebuild their homes and livelihoods. Copies of our regular situation reports are available in the Library.

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