ISLAMABAD-The Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) unit of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) is facing closure due to indifferent attitude of the concerned authorities and non-availability of funds, The Nation has learnt. According to the sources, the USAR unit did not get any special funds since many years so that the infrastructure could be strengthened and the capacity of rescuers and trainers could be enhanced up to the international level.

The unit was raised in the aftermath of the October 2005 earthquake. After the earthquake, s need was felt for an NDMA-like institution as Pakistan had no organization to conduct rescue and relief activities on modern lines. In November 2009, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) got the operational command of what would have been a highly-sophisticated and well-equipped USAR team raised by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in collaboration with international partners.

The projected features of the team were high-tech search and rescue, search dogs, operational self-sustainability and local and international deployment capability. Approximately 2 million dollars worth of search and rescue equipment was arranged for the team by the NDMA.

However, the sournces in the MCI said that the unit is facing severe shortage of funds and vehicles. There is no attention of the high ups towards revamping of the unit and resultantly it is on the brink of closure, said the staff at the unit on condition of anonymity. “The vehicles at the disposal of the unit are out of order… the staff has also been shortened from 88 to 35 over the years,” they said while talking to The Nation.

A large number of the staffers got transferred to other sections of the CDA, they added. Emergency and Disaster Management Directorate was established in 2008 in the aftermath of 2005 earthquake and Marriot fire incident realizing the increasing importance of a fully equipped, pro-active and fast disaster mitigation and response unit of trained and motivated men and women.

The well-equipped search and rescue team in Islamabad was expected to cater to the needs of Azad Kashmir, NWFP and major parts of the Punjab province even. However, the unit is now struggling for its own life due to paucity of funds and lack of attention of the authorities concerned.