Governments and charities from the United States to the Middle East rushed personnel and aid to Nepal Sunday after Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake and ensuing aftershocks rattled the Himalayan nation, leaving more than 2,700 dead and thousands injured according to Nepalese authorities.
U.N. spokeswoman Orla Fagan, who is heading to Nepal, said preventing the spread of disease is one of the most important tasks facing aid workers who are arriving.
“There are 14 international medical teams on the way and either 14 or 15 international search-and-rescue teams on the way,” she said. “They need to get in as soon as possible. They will use military aircraft to get them into Nepal.”
The Pentagon says a U.S. military plane has departed from the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware bound for the earthquake-stricken nation.
Onboard are 70 personnel, including a U.S. Agency for International Development disaster assistance response team, a Virginia-based search and rescue team and 45 tons of cargo to provide assistance to areas hit by Saturday’s massive quake.
The Pentagon says the flight is expected to arrive at Kathmandu on Monday.
The first to respond, however, were Nepal’s neighbors — India, China and Pakistan, all of which have been jockeying for influence over the landlocked nation. Still, Nepal remains closest to India with which it shares deep political, cultural and religious ties.
Indian air force planes landed Sunday with 43 tons of relief material, including tents and food, and nearly 200 rescuers, India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said. The planes were returning to New Delhi with Indian nationals stranded in Kathmandu. More aid flights were planned for Sunday.
India suffered its own losses from the quake, with at least 61 people killed there and dozens injured. Sunday’s aftershock was also widely felt in the country, and local news reports said metro trains in New Delhi and Kolkata were briefly shut down when the shaking started.
A 62-member Chinese search and rescue team also arrived Sunday.
European nations deployed as well: France said it would send 11 rescuers on Sunday; Britain announced that an advance team of eight had been sent and that a 5 million pound ($7.6 million) aid package would be available under a rapid response plan; Italy deployed a team of experts from its Civil Protection Department as well as it foreign crisis team; and the Swiss Foreign Ministry said a team of experts including a doctor, a building surveyor and water quality technician had left for Nepal on Sunday.
Poland is sending a rescue team to Nepal of 81 firefighters, together with heavy equipment and several dogs, as well several medics. The medics are expected in Nepal on Monday morning. The firefighters were delayed by aftershocks and confusion at Kathmandu’s airport, said Pawel Fratczak, spokesman for firefighters. He said they are now due to arrive Monday afternoon.
Other countries sending support Sunday included the United Arab Emirates, Germany and France.
Pakistan prepared to send four C-130 aircraft, carrying a 30-bed temporary hospital comprising army doctors, surgeons and specialists. An urban search and rescue team was also sent with ground-penetrating radars, concrete cutters and sniffing dogs. Pakistan was also sending 2,000 ready-to-eat meal packs, water bottles, medicines, 200 tents, 600 blankets and other necessary items.
The need is great: UNICEF said Sunday that nearly 1 million children in areas affected by the earthquake are in “urgent need” of humanitarian assistance. UNICEF staff reported dwindling water supplies, power shortages and communications breakdowns.
Celebrities like singer Shakira sent tweets appealing for help for UNICEF. The mobile payment company Square created a “cashtag” to donate: cash.me/$unicef. PayPal announced it was waiving fees for donations to several aid organizations.
Information was still lacking about conditions at the earthquake’s epicenter, Pickering said.
“Going forward it’s about access to the epicenter, and helicopters are the key, but it’s not clear whether they can be sourced and whether the high altitude is a problem,” he said, adding that Save the Children has emergency kits pre-positioned in three warehouses in Nepal and plans to distribute bedding, buckets and other basic supplies to 2,000 families as quickly as possible.
Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake spread horror from Kathmandu to small villages and to the slopes of Mount Everest, triggering an avalanche that buried part of the base camp packed with foreign climbers preparing to make their summit attempts. At least 18 people died there and 61 were injured.
The earthquake centered outside Kathmandu, the capital, was the worst to hit the South Asian nation in over 80 years. It destroyed swaths of the oldest neighborhoods of Kathmandu, and was strong enough to be felt all across parts of India, Bangladesh, China’s region of Tibet and Pakistan.
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SOURCE: Fox News, The Associated Press