A magnitude 7.9 earthquake has paralysed Kathmandu and wreaked havoc on Pokhara and surrounding areas in Nepal and northern India
There are thousands of casualties, with some reports of over 200 people dead. The structural damage to Kathmandu is extensive, which is still experiencing strong aftershocks, loss of power and low temperatures.
Caritas Internationalis, the international aid and development agency of the Catholic Church and its members agencies in Nepal, have staff members currently in Kathmandu who are working with Caritas Nepal in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake.
Caritas Australia Programmes Coordinator for Nepal, Eleanor Trinchera, reports from on the ground in Kathmandu, “I have never seen so much devastation. While the streets are rife with activity and chaos as people try to find loved ones and friends, the city is paralysed with destroyed buildings, blocked roads, intermittent power and rolling aftershocks.”
Staff from Catholic Relief Services and Caritas India are in Kathmandu to assist in the initial response.
Assessments are coming in and Caritas teams in country are organising the response. Caritas Nepal has provided 50 tarpaulins for the people who were outside last night.
“Rescue is the still the main priority at the moment. Lots of people have lost their homes and are out on the streets or in open spaces at 11 and 15 degrees Celsius’ temperature overnight, so we will be looking to provide them with food and temporary shelter,” said Caritas Nepal Director, Fr Pius Perumana,from Kathmandu.
“There were 66 minor aftershocks from 12 pm yesterday, which was followed by another major earthquake today, which is a usually a rare phenomena in such a short period. The damage will be devastating with this recent earthquake.”
Caritas confederation communication officer in Kathmandu, Lilian Chan, spoke to Prakash Khadha from Caritas Nepal, about what he experienced when the earthquake hit, and about the current situation.
What has happened over the past 24 hours?
In the past 24 hours, as we know, there has been the biggest earthquake in over 80 years in Nepal. So many things have been damaged including human lives and property. After that we have at least over 60 big shocks, over 4-5 magnitude. People are panicking and everyone is in the street and staying out of the home.
But the problem is that it might rain soon. We heard that in another part of our country it is raining, so the people living there are in a more difficult situation. And there are no medical supplies and no electricity. And people cannot get through on their mobile phones, so these are the major challenges.
What did you experience when the earthquake first hit?
It was the first time for me to experience such a type of earthquake in my life. In the beginning I thought it was just normal because we used to have small shocks. But it was really long and strong. All of a sudden we saw the houses falling down. We witnessed those things. After that, there is nothing to say, it was a speechless situation.
What do you see in the streets now?
I saw the number of people living in tents increasing. Last night we saw many small groups of people living in different parts of the street. But today they are trying to come together in a single group, so it is also easy for us to help. So we have noticed there are more people living under tents now. And there is a high demand for tents at the moment.
What are the challenges in the next 24 hrs?
At the moment, we don’t have a clear picture on what has happened everywhere, but we know there is a lot happening. There are some rescue teams going on in some parts of the country, but it is not sufficient. Also, people are hungry; they have no place to sleep, and no place to live in. The roads are also blocked. So these are the main challenges at the moment to solve.
Caritas Australia communication officer Lilian Chan is in Nepal and is helping coordinate communications for the Caritas confederation relief efforts.
Her contacts are 0061 410 009 200 and email LilianC@caritas.org.au