Nato was today debating a plan to send hundreds of military engineers to quake-hit Pakistan, as well as medical units to set up a field hospital for the injured there.
The 26 allies were also looking at providing more helicopters for the relief effort, although allied commanders have acknowledged problems finding aircraft needed to get aid high into the mountains of Kashmir and northern Pakistan.
The UN’s top relief co-ordinator Jan Egeland was due to address the alliance’s policy setting North Atlantic Council before it debates the extra aid.
Yesterday, Egeland appealed to Nato to “think bold, think big” in assessing their response. He called for the creation of non-stop flights reminiscent of the US and British airlift of essential supplies to West Berlin in the late 1940s when Soviet forces cut the city off from the West.
Nato military experts were still finalising the plan early today before asking for approval from the North Atlantic Council, which is made up of ambassadors from each of the allied nations.
Central to the plan is the deployment of engineers and medics from the alliance’s elite Nato Response Force to clear roads blocked by the quake and subsequent mudslides and set up field hospitals.
Spain is expected to send at least 300 military engineers and Poland 140. Additional units are expected to come from Italy and Lithuania.
Nato’s European command in southern Belgium held emergency talks with military commanders from the allied nations yesterday in an attempt to muster more helicopters, which the Pakistani government says are desperately needed to get aid to remote mountain areas.
Officials declined to say how many choppers had been offered. On Wednesday, allied commanders acknowledged difficulties in mustering the necessary helicopters.
Nato is running an airlift of aid to Pakistan out of bases in Germany and Turkey.
The operation out of Turkey is Nato’s biggest ever joint airlift with the UN refugee agency. In aims to ferry some 860 metric tonnes of supplies to Pakistan over 10-15 days.