Japan military chopper unit heads to flood-hit Pakistan
TOKYO: The first contingent of a 200-strong Japanese military helicopter unit left for Pakistan Saturday to join international relief efforts across the flood-ravaged nation.
Fifty ground troops left the Japanese city of Fukuoka for an army airfield in Multan, central Pakistan, Japanese media reported.
They will prepare the ground for the rest of their unit and six helicopters which will transport people and goods in flood-hit areas, according to the Defence Ministry.
A naval transport ship and six air force C-130 transport planes are set to carry the helicopters and the unit’s equipment to Pakistan, the ministry said.
A total of 530 Japanese ground, air and naval troops will be mobilised for the relief mission.
“We hear that the extent of damage is quite serious,” Colonel Atsushi Ishizaki, the commander of the unit, told Japanese media at a ground force base in Fukuoka.
“We are proud that we can provide Pakistani people in trouble with something from our heart as Japanese.” The Pakistani military will protect the helicopter unit which will carry no arms while engaging in disaster relief activities in line with Japanese government policy, Kyodo news agency reported.
Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada told reporters on Thursday that the United States had “unofficially” asked Japan to provide assistance to Pakistan. He also said Tokyo recognised the “importance of Pakistan” which neighbours Afghanistan.
Tokyo has already extended 14.4 million dollars worth of emergency aid to help Pakistan cope with the disaster.
Pakistan has endured its worst floods in 80 years, with millions of people affected by the deluge, prompting UN chief Ban Ki-moon to urge the world to step up international aid.
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