IOM Emergency Team Arrives in Nepal Amid "Terrible Tragedy"
Nepal - IOM emergency staff have arrived in Nepal to assist the government and humanitarian partners in responding to Saturday's (25/4) 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which has caused immense damage and loss of life in the Himalayan nation.
At the time of writing, over 3,600 people are reported to have perished, with full data not yet in from the epicentre, 80 kilometres outside the capital Kathmandu. Many thousands have been injured with hospitals and health care facilities overwhelmed. Unique heritage sites and residential buildings have collapsed, trapping many people. Climbers on Mount Everest have been killed and injured in avalanches and landslides.
Multiple aftershocks are continuing to cause more damage and chaos. A 6.7 magnitude earthquake was recorded outside Kathmandu yesterday (26/4). Deaths and damage have been reported in India, Bangladesh and China.
"This is a terrible tragedy for Nepal," said IOM Nepal Chief of Mission Maurizio Busatti. "We still don't know the full extent of damage, nor the number of lives lost, but it is inevitable that it will be much higher as we reach towns and villages which are currently inaccessible. We know from aerial and satellite surveillance that whole towns have been flattened. It is an immensely sad time for Nepal and the entire international community needs to unite to ease the country's pain."
IOM participated at an emergency coordination meeting at the UN regional headquarters in Bangkok this morning, where it was reported that while arterial roads are clear, almost all minor roads in the affected area are blocked by landslides, meaning millions of people are potentially isolated with limited access to food, water and healthcare.
The first members of IOM's surge team arrived in Kathmandu this morning, to a scene of frantic activity, with dozens of search and rescue teams, military planes and helicopters, and hundreds of responders at the airport.
The UN's humanitarian cluster system was activated over the weekend, with IOM leading the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster. IOM has also seconded a staff member to the UN Disaster Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) team and the Emergency Shelter Cluster.
IOM Team Leader Brian Kelly's first impressions are of massive shelter needs. "We estimate that hundreds of thousands of families will have been made homeless, or will be moving to safe areas for fear of more tremors, spontaneously or as per contingency plans. The priority is to get these people into safe shelter and respond swiftly to their needs,"he said.
"We need to look at immediate food, water supply and health needs," Kelly continued. "We will be working with the government, the army and our humanitarian partners to ensure we minimize the suffering of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable survivors. We have been working together on earthquake preparedness for many years and are hitting the ground running."
IOM Director General William Lacy Swing has approved the activation of IOM's Migration Emergency Funding Mechanism (MEFM), a revolving fund that facilitates immediate response. "Nepal has suffered a lot in recent times and was just beginning to enjoy a period pf peace and stability," said Ambassador Swing. "We send our condolences and pledge our fullest solidarity with them during this tragedy and through the recovery period."
In 2011, IOM, as global lead for the CCCM Cluster, working under the guidance of Nepal's Ministry of Home Affairs, identified open spaces for humanitarian purposes in the Kathmandu Valley. These are now being set up as camps, with security and water supplies on hand.
Nepal became an IOM Member State in 2006. Since 2008, IOM operations in Nepal have included the resettlement of some 100,000 Bhutanese refugees of Nepali origin, mainly to the USA.
For more information please contact IOM Nepal:
Maurizio Busatti, Email: email@example.com, Tel. +977 9801004510 Brian Kelly, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. +66 818326802 Matt Graydon, Email: email@example.com, Tel. +93 794 100 546 Ariani Soejoeti, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. +977 9803493760
The massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake – the worst disaster to hit the Himalayan nation in more than 80 years – occurred when a major fault broke, generating powerful seismic waves for about 100 seconds. Multiple aftershocks followed.
The most affected areas are Gorkha and Lamjung Districts, in the Western Region, as well as Sindulpalchowk, Kavre, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Dolakha in the Central Region. Half of Nepal's 70 districts, with a population of 6.6 million are affected. A national state of emergency has been declared and the Government of Nepal has requested international assistance.
India was one of the first counties to respond, sending planeloads of humanitarian aid and responders. China and European nations are also active, and the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator, Valerie Amos, has allocated $10 million for the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to cover immediate needs in the shelter, health, water and sanitation, protection and logistics sectors.
Although the quake constitutes a major humanitarian catastrophe, it is not the "big one" that the Nepalese have been dreading for decades. The epicentre was outside the main population centre of Kathmandu. Were a quake to hit underneath the capital, the results would be even more devastating. A magnitude 8.1 quake killed 10,700 people in Nepal and northern India in 1934.