The U.S. military is expanding the type of relief supplies it is sending to Pakistan in response to Saturday's earthquake. But flights by relief helicopters to deliver the supplies to affected areas have been limited by bad weather.
The U.S. Defense Department says Pakistan has asked for heavy lift equipment to help clear debris from collapsed buildings, where survivors could still be trapped. Spokesman Lawrence DiRita says the agency is identifying equipment and crews that are available, and will send them as soon as possible.
In addition, Mr. DiRita says the eight U.S. military helicopters that arrived in Pakistan shortly after the quake will be supplemented in the coming days with about 20 more, many of them with the ability to deliver huge loads of relief supplies to remote areas. U.S. Central Command, which supervises all U.S. military activity in the region, says helicopter flight operations in Pakistan were hampered by bad weather on Tuesday, but cargo planes continued to fly into Islamabad, delivering about 80 more metric tons of food water and other emergency supplies.
Mr. DiRita reports the United States is also using both manned and unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, and satellite imagery, to help the Pakistani government assess the scope of the damage.
Some news reports have expressed the view that a large U.S. military operation in Pakistan, even for a humanitarian mission, could hurt the Pakistani government politically and hurt the U.S. image among the Pakistani people. But Mr. DiRita says that considering the situation he hopes Pakistanis will be pleased to receive the help.
"What the United States is trying to do is respond to what the Pakistan government is asking for," said Mr. DiRita. "And as long as, I think, we're working very closely with the Pakistan government, the Pakistan government is leading this effort, people will see a lot of countries, including the United States, trying very hard to respond quickly to a humanitarian crisis."
Still, in a reflection of the sensitivity of the situation, the Defense Department decided not to call its military team in Pakistan a Joint Task Force. Instead, the department announced on Monday that Rear Admiral Michael Lefever is going to Islamabad to head a Humanitarian Coordination Center. The Pentagon spokesman says the designation is a better way to describe what the admiral and his team will be doing.