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Aid pledges pour into Pak

London, Oct. 9 (Reuters): Rescue teams and aid pledges poured into Pakistan from around the world today after a devastating earthquake that killed thousands of people.

“We are rushing against the clock here,” said a spokesperson for the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as rescue workers struggled to pull survivors of yesterday’s 7.6-magnitude earthquake from the rubble.

An eight-member UN team has begun coordinating the relief effort in the hardest hit areas, she said, and teams from Turkey, China, Britain and Germany have been on the ground.

The greatest need is for field hospitals, water purification and blankets, the spokesperson said. “The logistical problems will be big. We are going to need more helicopters for example.”

The US, expressing gratitude that Pakistan had stepped forward after Hurricane Katrina struck the US coast last month, said it would provide $100,000 in emergency aid funds and also offered US military helicopters.

President George W. Bush, who counts Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf as a key ally in the US-led war against terrorism, said further assistance would be provided as needed.

“My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this horrible tragedy,” he said in a statement, echoing an outpouring of sympathy from across the world.

Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been among others dispatching help, as the official death toll in Pakistan kept escalating.

The quake, which Musharraf’s spokesman called the worst devastation in Pakistan’s history, also killed hundreds in India and at least one in Afghanistan.

Unicef executive director Ann Veneman said children made up half the population of the quake-affected areas and would be vulnerable to hunger, cold, illness and trauma.

The World Bank said it was ready to provide $20 million to Pakistan to deal with damage and the European Commission said it had earmarked an initial 3.6 million euros for medical services, shelter, food, drinking water and sanitation.

The Dutch government offered one million euros in aid and a rescue team, Dutch news agency ANP said, while China’s state news agency said the country had sent Pakistan a rescue team.

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