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Bush Vows Help for Pakistan, Death Toll Rises

Bush Vows Help for Pakistan as Quake's Death Toll Rises

President says U.S. will send helicopters, other aid to stricken areas

One day after an earthquake ravaged northern Pakistan and parts of the Kashmir region, President Bush met with Pakistan's deputy chief of mission in Washington and pledged U.S. assistance to those affected by the event.

During a press appearance after the meeting October 9, Bush said the Pakistani official had told him the earthquake was "the worst natural disaster in the nation's history," with thousands dead and wounded.

Conservative estimates late October 9 placed the death toll at 20,000, with the number expected to rise, according to the Associated Press.

"[O]ne of the biggest concerns for the government of Pakistan is not enough airlift capacity to get to some of these rural areas where people are suffering," so the United States is sending helicopters to help, the president said.

Bush also said he had spoken to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to express "our nation's deepest condolences."

"Pakistan is a friend of the United States government and the people of the United States will help as best as we possibly can," he said.

The earthquake struck at 8:50 a.m. local time October 8 and was centered about 95 kilometers from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, in northern Pakistan near the border with India.

The United States Geological Survey estimated the initial tremor's magnitude at 7.7 -- a major earthquake, near the top of the second-highest category of severity. Twenty "significant aftershocks" measuring between 5 and 6.2 magnitude were felt later in the day, the director general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department in Islamabad told various news sources.

For more information, see Humanitarian Assistance and Refugees.

Following is the transcript of Bush’s remarks after meeting with the Pakistani deputy chief of mission:

(begin transcript)

Office of the Press Secretary
October 9, 2005


The Oval Office

12:53 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: I would like to thank the Pakistan Embassy for coming by to brief me on the tragedy that has taken place in that country. I was just told that this is going to be the worst natural disaster in the nation's history; thousands of people have died; thousands are wounded, and the United States of America wants to help.

I spoke to President Musharraf. I expressed our nation's deepest condolences. And I told him that we want to help in any way we can. To that end, we've already started to send cash money and other equipment and goods that is going to be needed to help the people in Pakistan. Moving eight choppers over; the Chargé told me that one of the biggest concerns for the government of Pakistan is not enough airlift capacity to get to some of these rural areas where people are suffering. So we're moving choppers.

Secretary Rumsfeld is surveying the assets that he may be able to move in the area. We're working with Pakistan at all levels of government. Pakistan is a friend of the United States government and the people of the United States will help as best as we possibly can. So I appreciate you coming by.

Finally, as I told the President -- President Musharraf -- I said there are a lot of Americans who will be asking for the Almighty God's blessings on the people of Pakistan.

Thank you all.

© Scoop Media

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