London, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has issued his directives to airlift urgent relief assistance, including food, medical supplies, tents and blankets, to victims of a massive earthquake that struck South Asia.
Elsewhere, Rescue experts, medical teams, sniffer dogs and supplies are being mobilized as a worldwide effort cranks into gear to bring aid to victims.
Japan, the United States and the European Union were among the first to offer manpower and financial aid to Pakistan, India and Afghanistan following Saturday”s quake, which is believed to have killed more than 30,000 people.
Pakistan was worst hit and the Japanese Foreign Ministry said Tokyo had sent a 50-strong emergency relief team to the Islamic republic.
In Britain, which has a large South Asian community, the government said it was sending an initial allocation of 100,000 pounds (176,000 dollars) to Pakistani authorities.
Search and rescue teams from four firefighting forces across Britain were also headed to the region and Defense Secretary John Reid said British troops in Afghanistan were "ready to assist if required".
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the dispatch of up to 60 staff was an initial offering. British Muslim charities have also pledged hundreds of thousands of pounds in aid.
Additional search and rescue teams were also being sent from France, Turkey — which itself is prone to violent earthquakes — Greece and Switzerland.
The Japanese team included police, disaster management and coast guard specialists whose skills have been honed dealing with the country”s regular temblors.
They would be engaged in search and rescue operations as well as information gathering, the ministry said in a statement.
The Japanese Red Cross was also sending four medical specialists to Islamabad as an advance team to investigate the extent of the damage caused by the quake, which measured 7.6 on the Richter scale.
Shortly after news of the tragedy began filtering out of the region, European ministers offered financial aid as well as rescue teams.
The European Union”s executive arm said it had set aside three million euros (3.6 million dollars) of immediate emergency relief aid.
"We are all hoping that the news does not get steadily worse … but we are fearful that the casualty figures may mount," said EU aid commissioner Louis Michel.
Paris was sending sniffer dogs and cutting gear, while the Irish government said it would provide one million euros to the relief effort.
Berlin said it had made 50,000 euros available to Pakistani authorities through its embassy in Islamabad.
The United States was swift to offer help and President George W. Bush said Washington was already mobilizing teams of experts to help the rescue effort and also made available 100,000 dollars in immediate emergency aid.
"Our initial deployments of assistance are under way, and we stand ready to provide additional assistance as needed. My thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this horrible tragedy," the US leader said.
Further help was offered from Australia, which said it had provided 380,000 dollars for immediate medical and relief assistance, and from Abu Dhabi, which has sent a team of police officers.
The United Nations children”s agency UNICEF said it was sending aid supply trucks from the southern city of Karachi towards Pakistan”s quake-hit northern areas and deploying an assessment team to decide what further help was needed.
David Bull, executive director of UNICEF in Britain, said food, blankets, tents, medicines and water purification tablets were being delivered.