Top UN Humanitarian Officials in Iran, Pakistan on ‘Standby’ To Assist Quake Response

TEHRAN, 18 April 2013 (UNIC) - United Nations officials in Iran and Pakistan Wednesday reiterated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s promise of assistance, if needed, to both countries following the 7.8- magnitude earthquake that struck their border on 16 April.

“The UN stands ready, willing and I dare say able to help, if requested,” Gary Lewis, UN Resident Coordinator and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Representative in Iran, told journalists in New York via a telephone link.

If asked to assist, Mr. Lewis said his office, working closely with Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) based in Geneva with a sub office in Cairo, would trigger a number of mechanisms. These include informing the international community and deploying UN quick action response teams as well as international search and rescue advisory teams.

Mr. Lewis said his office is continues to work very closely with government authorities, “the message coming to us is that it’s being handled locally and the response is comprehensive.”

He said a number of villages have been assessed and assistance is being provided by the Iranian Red Crescent Society working under the overall coordination of the National Disaster Management Organization.

Meanwhile, the UN in Pakistan said it stands ready with humanitarian partners “to support the government’s ongoing relief effort for the people affected by the earthquake and mobilize any international support, if requested.”

“We extend our deep condolences to the people of Pakistan for the devastation that resulted from the earthquake and its aftershocks, particularly to those whose loved ones were injured or lost their lives,” said Humanitarian Coordinator Timo Pakkala.

Reports indicate at least 40 people were killed and more than 180 others injured following the earthquake that struck southeast Iran deep beneath the surface with tremors felt across Pakistan, India and the Gulf States.

In Pakistan, housing collapsed, leaving hundreds homeless, in the town of Mashkel and nearby villages in Washuk district, Balochistan province. In the past hours, at least ten camps have been established with 400 tents for survivors, Mr. Lewis said.

“About 1,700 people have received relief of some nature,” he said about assistance ranging from tents and ground sheets to blankets, water and food.

Secretary-General Ban today reiterated his sympathies to the families affected. Speaking at a press conference at the UN Headquarters in New York, he said that while he continues to follow the emerging details from the region, the extent of the damage appears to be “less than might have been expected given the magnitude.”

Speaking to the Security Council last night, he said “the United Nations stands ready to help as necessary if asked to do so.”