The aid agency CAFOD has committed an immediate £50,000 and launched an emergency appeal after Nepal was hit by a devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake.
Matthew Carter, Head of CAFOD’s Humanitarian Department, said: “This is the worst earthquake to hit Nepal for 80 years, and it will take some time before the full extent of the destruction is known. With power supplies down, there’s still virtually no news from remote villages near the epicentre, but the damage is likely to be extreme.
“CAFOD’s local partners have been working through the night to deliver aid to people who have fled their homes, but the situation on the ground remains extremely challenging, with aftershocks continuing. After a disaster on this scale, the immediate needs will include food, shelter, emergency supplies and – crucially – clean water and sanitation to prevent the spread of disease. We are doing everything we can to support our local partners, and are deploying a specialist from our Emergency Response team from here in the UK.”
The earthquake struck between the capital Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara on the morning of Saturday 25 April. Nearly 2,000 people have reportedly been killed, with many more feared trapped under the rubble. CAFOD is coordinating closely with its sister agencies in the Caritas network of Catholic aid agencies.
Lilian Chan from Caritas Australia said on Sunday: “There have been continued tremors overnight. A lot of people have been sleeping outside, and a lot have evacuated to open spaces in town, because they’re worried about continued tremors. We’ve just experienced another one, a large one. The mood here is sombre. Everyone is doing their best just to get through.
“A lot of buildings have collapsed, especially in the town centre. Caritas Nepal has deliver immediate relief, providing tents to people who have evacuated, including those who have taken refuge in churches which are being used as evacuation centres.”
Father Pius Perumana S.J., Director of Caritas Nepal in Kathmandu, said: “It was the worst earthquake I have ever experienced in my life. The aftershocks are still strong. Lots of houses have fallen down and there are lots with cracks. Thank God it was during the day and on a holiday as many people were outside when the quake happened.
“Rescue is the first priority. Lots of people have lost their homes and are out on the street or in open spaces, so we will be looking to provide them with food and temporary shelter.”
Kushal Neogy from CAFOD partner Catholic Relief Services told the BBC Sunday Programme:
“Everybody had to spend the night outside and we got an advisory from the government as well to stay outside and we just went round to see people in the neighbourhood locality. It was quite cold, it was about 11 degrees centigrade, with the wind blowing, so it was quite difficult for people. But then they had no choice because aftershocks kept coming. In fact, we lost count, but we read in today’s newspapers that there were about 65 aftershocks altogether throughout the evening and late night. So there is a state of panic.
“It has not happened for many years in Nepal, last time it happened was about 85 or 90 years back. It has been quite some time. Here on the outskirts of Kathmandu we can see there have been some landslides.”
In recent years, CAFOD has responded to major earthquakes in Haiti, Pakistan, Myanmar and the Philippines. Its local partner Caritas Nepal was formed in 1990 as the social action arm of the country’s Catholic Church, and provides emergency aid and long-term development projects in 50 of Nepal’s 75 districts.
CAFOD staff and partners are available for interview. Please contact Nick Harrop for interview requests, information and photos: +44 (0)7939 587329, email@example.com; or out-of-hours media number: +44 (0)7919 301 429
CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. To donate to CAFOD’s Nepal Earthquake Appeal, go to: http://www.cafod.org.uk/Give/Donate-to-Emergencies/Nepal-Earthquake-Appeal
CAFOD is part of the Caritas network of more than 160 Catholic aid agencies worldwide, which work together to respond to humanitarian emergencies.