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South Asia Earthquake

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): As each day passes, the true scale of the disaster is becoming clearer. Due to the mountainous nature of the terrain, many areas could not be accessed immediately, and some have still not been reached. The Government of Pakistan now report that 51,400 people have died with 74,500 injured. The number of homeless people is estimated to be between 2.7 and 3.2 million. The homeless are in urgent need of shelter, blankets, and warmth.

On 20 October I visited Muzaffarabad and Balakot and saw the scale of the devastation. We are now in a race against time to save lives as winter sets in and temperatures drop below zero. On the same day, I allocated an additional £20 million to the relief and recovery effort. This brings DFID's total pledge to date to £33 million. £9 million of this new allocation is already earmarked for the relief operation including an extra £1 million for medical support and services, an extra £1 million in support of water and sanitation, and an extra £1 million towards shelter.

The Government of Pakistan and the international community face massive challenges in reaching the population affected in remote areas. DFID has committed a sizeable part of the new allocation to supporting the coordination and logistical effort. UK support includes £3 million for helicopters including three British military heavy lift CH-47 Chinook helicopters, as well as four helicopters already being funded by DFID through the UN and Red Cross. DFID has also earmarked a further £1 million for logistics, transport and coordination, and £2 million for the Red Cross movement which includes helicopters as well as the provision of immediate relief supplies such as blankets, tents and water. The remaining funds, around £12 million, will be allocated as needed.

Of the £13 million previously announced DFID has allocated: £5 million for the UN Flash Appeal; £3 million to pay for in-kind donations and airlifts for the Disasters Emergency Committee; £1.5 million for the Red Cross; £300,000 for Save the Children UK for the provision of tents, blankets, clothing, primary health care and services to help reunify families; £300,000 for Christian Aid for tents, food packages, shelter kits, first aid and medical assistance; and £300,000 for Action Aid for the provision of relief, food packages, shelter, health centres, tents, medical supplies and support. £1,660,000 has been provided by the UK as part of the EU's aid contribution through the European Commission Humanitarian Organisation (ECHO).

The UK Search and Rescue teams returned on 14 and 15 October, having been involved in the rescue of 14 people. The Government, through DFID's emergency response team, have also: undertaken 13 relief flights carrying a total of 900 tonnes of
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emergency supplies; organised and funded 23 Disasters Emergency Committee flights with another three planned over the next few days; paid for half of the World Health Organisation's appeal to provide enough health and trauma kits to support 40,000 people for three months; and provided logistical support to the United Nations including vehicles, airport handling equipment and an Humanitarian Information Centre.

Further information on the emergency response can be found at Staff at the High Commission in Islamabad continue to offer consular assistance to British nationals in Pakistan and who are travelling to the affected area to search for relatives. Sadly, there has been one confirmed British fatality, a twelve-year-old boy from Luton. We have helped his injured parents obtain expert medical attention, accommodation and provided them with emergency passports. A few missing persons remain unaccounted for and High Commission staff are continuing to try to locate them.

In recognition of the fact that many people here in the UK will be grieving for and concerned about relatives caught up in the tragedy, my right hon. Friend the
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Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who has responsibility for the aftercare of disaster victims, has arranged for the 7 July Assistance Centre to extend its helpline to those affected by the South Asia Earthquake. The Centre is offering advice and support services on which people can draw. The helpline number is: 08457054 7444.


Sinn Féin

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): In my Written Statement of 19 October, I said that I had decided to restore Sinn Féin's Assembly allowances with effect from 1 November.

As I am required to do by section 95A(2) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, I have today laid in Parliament the Direction I have made which gives effect to that decision. Accordingly, Sinn Féin's entitlement to the financial assistance payable to the parties represented in the Northern Ireland Assembly will be restored from 1 November.