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Asia-Pacific

Nepal in urgent need of medecine, food and water, says aid worker

media In Bashantapur Durbar, rescuers are looking for survivors after the earthquake on 25 April. Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar

The death toll in Nepal surpassed 2,500 just a day after a 7.9-magnitude earthquake ripped through parts of the country. “There is an urgent need for fresh water, food items and shelter,” says Caritas aid worker Eleanor Trinchera, as rescuers have intensified efforts to help the Himalayan nation.

Witnesses on the ground describe scenes of destruction, blocked roads, downed power lines and overcrowded hospitals.

RFI can also confirm that phone lines were down but were working again in the afternoon.

Trinchera, who was near the capital Kathmandu when the quake hit, says Nepal is missing a lot of things.

“There is no electricity at the moment, water supplies are running short,” she says. “Food items are also running short because most of the markets are closed.”

Powerful aftershocks – a 6.7-magnitude tremor jolted part of the country Sunday – are making the search even more difficult by driving residents onto the streets.

“Most of the people are now staying on the streets because they are afraid of the aftershocks,” Trinchera says. “A lot of the open spaces are occupied by families and those living nearby.”

Survivors slept in the open in Kathmandu overnight, braving the cold for fear of being crushed by teetering buildings.

Hundreds of structures, including office blocks and a landmark nine-storey tower, crashed to the ground on Saturday.

Mike Bruce, a regional communications manager for Plan International in Bangkok, told RFI that it has been difficult for relief workers to reach rural isolated areas outside of Kathmandu.

“Plan International has teams going into some of the most isolated communities, some of them are cut off by landslide,” he explains. “We’re talking about extremely poor and vulnerable communities, where people are unable to live in their houses and desperately need urgent aid.”

Overcrowded hospitals

Another issue for the Nepalese and aid workers is that hospitals are becoming increasingly crowded.

Nepal’s infrastructure was already in bad shape before the earthquake.

“Some people have been brought to hospitals and then evacuated because some hospitals are not stable,” says Trinchera. “Some people are being treated on the streets, and according to reports we’ve received, some hospitals lack medical supplies and medical personnel.”

Numerous aid agencies are now gathering and sending more volunteers to Nepal.

Bruce says that despite preparing for such a catastrophe, “no matter what, when something as devastating as this happens, there are always going to be logistical and humanitarian challenges.”

Nepal is already a very poor country; they can’t withstand a shock like this.
Mike Bruce, Plan International in Bangkok

Foreign governments – including India, France and the US — also said they had sent disaster response teams.

India dispatched two military transport planes as it emerged that at least 53 people had died there from the effects of the massive quake.

Australia and New Zealand also together pledged more than 4 million euros, and South Korea promised nearly 1 million euros in humanitarian aid.

But at this stage, it is difficult to know how soon relief can reach the Himalayan country.

“India has sent medical teams, so they are coming but we don’t know when,” says Trinchera.

With the international pledging to help Nepal, some are hoping that the country will rebuild itself quickly.

“Substantial investment will be needed," says Mike Bruce. "Not just for the initial humanitarian response but for prolonged development plans. Nepal is already a very poor country; they can’t withstand a shock like this. The long-term support of the international community will be incredible.”

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