Nepal: Post-Quake Focus Moves From Rescue To Relief

By BenarNews Staff

2015-05-05
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150505-NP-foodaid-620 A Nepalese boy carries a bag of rice from an Indian helicopter delivering food to Barpak, a village in north-central Nepal, May 4, 2015.
AFP

Foreign search-and-rescue teams Tuesday were winding down operations in earthquake-stricken Nepal, but there was no let up to international efforts to send aid, food and emergency supplies to affected communities.

The death toll from the 7.8-magnitude temblor that struck the Himalayan nation 10 days ago surpassed 7,500 with the number of injured reported at well above 14,000 people, according to news services.

In Kathmandu, the acting administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that the American government was earmarking another U.S. $11 million for Nepal’s post-quake relief efforts.

"After visiting Kathmandu and a province to the north, I've seen firsthand the destruction caused by this earthquake," Alfonso E. Lenhardt said Tuesday, according to a news release from the agency.

"My announcement today brings the total U.S. commitment to nearly $26 million and represents our steadfast commitment to the people of Nepal.”

The increased funding will pay for additional emergency shelter materials, medical supplies, safe drinking water, improved sanitation, and hygiene kits to Nepal’s hardest-hit districts, USAID said.

But Nepal will need at least U.S. $2 billion to rebuild after the earthquake, Nepalese Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat announced last week.

Marines help out

During USAID’s post-quake mission in Nepal the U.S. military has been helping the agency with logistical support.

On Sunday, the U.S. Marines deployed four MV-22B Osprey aircraft to Nepal. Since their arrival, they have been ferrying relief supplies to areas cut off by the earthquake, as well as flying reconnaissance missions to survey devastation caused by it.

The Osprey is useful because it has a dual-function design that allows it to fly like a helicopter or airplane.

“This means that we can get more relief aid and much needed supplies to more isolated areas in significantly less time,” Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy, leader of a 20-person military team dispatched to Nepal to support U.S. relief efforts, said in a news release.

Indian, Chinese outreach

India and China, which were also affected by the earthquake, were among other countries that continued to deliver aid to Nepal this week.

India, which was the first foreign country to send in search-and-rescue teams after the quake, flew in more food supplies as part of Operation Maithri (Friendship).

As of Monday Indian medical teams had treated 2,600 earthquake victims, including 1,170 in the village of Barpak, which was at the epicenter, the Economic Times reported.

"Operation Maitri is the largest ever support operation by India in response to a natural calamity abroad,” the Economic Times quoted Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae as saying.

“It represented not only the deepest commitment at the highest political level in India but also [the] overwhelming outpouring of support from the people of India and over a dozen Indian states, including those bordering Nepal," he added.

China has also been among the most active countries responding to the natural calamity in neighboring Nepal. Beijing was right behind India in sending in a search-and-rescue team.

On Monday, China said its military was dispatching a 70-member team to help Nepal prevent an outbreak of disease in quake-affected areas, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

A day earlier China sent troops from a town on the Chinese side of the border to help fix a highway linking the two countries that had been damaged by the temblor.

And on Tuesday, the Chinese air force said it was ready to deploy six military transport planes to Nepal to help with the relief effort, Xinhua reported.

Rescue mission winds down

Yet the international post-quake mission in Nepal began to change after Sunday, when the Nepalese government asked search and rescue teams from a host of countries to plan their departures.

The government said the time had come to shift the focus away from search and rescue and onto recovering bodies and rushing food, medicine and other supplies to desperate communities.

According to the Indian Express, as many as 76 rescue teams and 70 medical teams – totaling 4,050 personnel and 129 canines – were involved in search-and-rescue operations across Nepal.

These included 962 personnel from India, 370 from China, 286 from Israel, 140 from Sri Lanka and 106 from Singapore.

"So our Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee decided Sunday that those who helped Nepal, we would like to thank them, and now that their job is almost complete, we would like to request them to make exit plans,” the Indian Express quoted Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, a joint secretary and spokesperson for Nepal’s Home Ministry, as saying.

“Our friends who came here from 34 countries have done a very wonderful job and they have been with us at a very difficult time. We are very thankful to them,” Dhakal added.


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