As world leaders and global charities try to grasp the scope of an earthquake that devastated parts of tiny, mountainous Nepal, they are preparing emergency aid for the survivors but worrying how to make sure it gets there.
With Internet and cellphone communications spotty and many damaged roads closed, the outside world scrambled for a clear picture of what most was needed following the magnitude 7.8 quake near the capital, Kathmandu, on Saturday, April 25.
They know they need to hurry. Kathmandu’s airport reopened, a key development.
“We know the damage is extensive and that access into rural areas will be very, very difficult for everybody,” said Ben Pickering, Save the Children’s humanitarian adviser in Britain. “Children will be affected in many ways. Physical injuries. Separated from families.”
Doctors Without Borders said four teams were leaving Sunday morning for Nepal from the Bihar state in India, close to the Nepal border. The organization also is sending in 3,000 kits including medical supplies.
Habitat for Humanity International, which has worked in Nepal for years, said it would immediately begin distributing 20,000 emergency shelter kits as it evaluates the scope of the damage and determines construction plans.
AmeriCares sent a team from India and was preparing shipments of medical aid and relief supplies. Handicap International, which had 47 workers in Nepal before the earthquake, was already busy with the emergency response.
French aid group Doctors of the World (Medecins du monde) said it had mobilized its workers in Nepal and was sending more staffers and medical aid to the region immediately.
Mercy Corps said it was checking on the safety of the large team it already had on the ground in Nepal and assessing conditions.
As countries around the globe pledged aid, Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims and those working to save them.
A 62-member Chinese search-and-rescue team, plus six dogs, was expected to arrive in Kathmandu midday Sunday by chartered plane, the country’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the China Earthquake Administration.
The U.S. Embassy in Nepal announced $1 million in initial aid, and the U.S. Agency for International Development activated an urban search-and-rescue team. The U.S. State Department set up an email address and phone number for anyone who knows of U.S. citizens needing assistance in Nepal.
Canada’s government is sending a disaster aid team to Nepal and contributing $5 million to relief efforts, Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson’s office confirmed late Saturday.
The European Union was considering “some budget support” to Nepal, according to a joint statement by the EU’s foreign policy chief, development chief and humanitarian chief. It did not provide details.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter that Britain “will do all we can to help those caught up in it.” Germany, Norway, Italy, France, Monaco and Mexico also pledged help.
In a neighborhood in New York where many Nepalese people live, there was grief and concern.
Hari Acharya, owner of the Delhi Heights restaurant, said relatives including his mother, wife and children were safe but some friends had been killed. He said the building where several relatives lived had collapsed and the family was sitting outside.
“It’s a really bad thing,” he said. “It’s a legitimate disaster.”
In New York, Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, said the disaster requires “global assistance.”
“We fear the deaths and casualty numbers could go up for days,” she said. “We from the temple society will be collecting funds and forwarding them — as soon when we know where to send them.”