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Charities respond rapidly to Nepal earthquake

27 April 2015


Devastation: A Nepalese man cries as he walks through the earthquake debris in  Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu, Nepal, on Sunday

Devastation: A Nepalese man cries as he walks through the earthquake debris in  Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu, Nepal, on Sunday

CHRISTIAN agencies are among those racing against the clock to help victims of the worst earthquake in Nepal in 80 years.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck between the capital Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara on Saturday. The number of reported deaths - 3726 at the time of writing - is expected to rise. The worst-affected areas are inaccessible, and are yet to be reached by rescue teams.

More than 6300 people are believed to have been injured and almost a quarter of the population - 6.6 million people - has been affected.

The Nepalese government has described it as the worst earthquake since 1934, when 8600 people died.                                

"We are lacking proper resources and equipments to deal with the rescue," a police spokesman told The Guardian. "We are trying our best, though. We don't have enough cranes to dig out rapidly in all places, so it's taking time to recover the buried."

Christian organisations on the ground are providing humanitarian assistance, and appealing for donations.

Before the earthquake struck, World Vision had identified Nepal as "very vulnerable" to earthquakes, and had been implementing "earthquake-preparedness training" for communities, and workshops for schools, to help reduce the impact of a future earthquake. The agency had reached about 65,000 people in two districts.

In response to Saturday's tremor, World Vision is now planning to provide aid to 100,000 people, including first-aid kits, sleeping mats, blankets and jerry cans, and temporary shelter. It will establish six "child-friendly spaces" so children have a safe place to play.

The International Nepal Fellowship, a Tearfund partner, has set up camp on the basketball court of the Kathmandu International Study Centre, and has sent a team of medical specialists to a relief camp in Ghorka, one of the worst-affected regions.

The Fellowship reports that families, especially children, are becoming "increasingly traumatised and fearful of tremors". A series of aftershocks measuring up to 6.8 in magnitude means that people have been unable to shelter in buildings, and thousands are living out in the open.

Christian Aid has already sent £50,000 to support the humanitarian effort. Its partners on the ground include Lutheran World Foundation Nepal, which will help coordinate emergency supplies at a government-run camp, due to start providing temporary shelter. A local organisation, PGVS, will be distributing 100,000 sets of water purification kits.       

"Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the region, and has one of the least capacities to deal with an emergency of this scale," Christian Aid's regional emergency manager of South Asia, Ram Kishan, based in Delhi, said on Sunday.

"Medical services and hospitals are facing an immense strain at the moment. In Kathmandu Valley, hospitals are overcrowded, running out of room for storing corpses, and also running short of emergency supplies. . .

"The earthquake epicentres - mainly Gorkha, Makwanpur and Lamjung - are still not accessible. Those affected will have immediate and long-term needs emerging in the coming days. The most pressing need at the moment is for food, water supplies, medication, blankets, hygiene kits and other essentials."

Other agencies highlighted the lack of communication with Nepal's more remote regions.

"With power supplies down, there's still virtually no news from remote villages near the epicentre, but the damage is likely to be extreme," Matthew Carter, head of the humanitarian department at CAFOD, said on Monday.

The Oxfam country director in Nepal, Cecilia Keizer, said: "We are managing to reach out to people in Kathmandu; but it is extremely difficult to provide support on a larger scale to the most affected areas. A lot of the main roads have been damaged. . . At the moment, all the death-count reports are coming from Kathmandu Valley. Sadly, I fear that this is only the beginning."

It was not untli Sunday that the Revd Gabriel Jens and his wife, working for Serving In Mission in Kathmandu, was able to email friends to let them know that they were safe. Mr Jens, originally from New Zealand, wrote that the experience had been "terrifying" but that "the army and police and medical personnel have responded well".

On Sunday, the Department for International Development announced that a team of more than 60 search-and-rescue responders and medical experts has been sent from the UK. They will take with them more than 11 tonnes of kit, including torches, axes, rope, search cameras, stretchers, and tents. Funding of £5 million has also been announced. About 200 Britons had been helped by the British Embassy, the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, said on Sunday. There are no reports yet that any British nationals have died.

On Tuesday, Christian Aid published an account by the brother of one of its employees. Nicholas Roxburgh, a 26-year-old Ph.D. student from Ormskirk, Lancashire, exploring water-system management in rural Nepal, was in Kathmandu when the earthquake struck.

"While much of the media attention has focused on the capital city and on Everest, I fear for those living in these more isolated areas," he wrote. "Communications to these remote rural regions are poor, but I understand that there have been landslips. Access to these areas is tricky, and I can only imagine the urgent needs they must be facing now.

"For this country, the immediate need is clear - shelter, food and water, along with support that will help rebuild this beautiful country."

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