13 December 2019
Rescue workers search for survivors inside damaged buildings  in Kathmandu on Sunday. Photo: AFP
Rescue workers search for survivors inside damaged buildings in Kathmandu on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Massive rescue efforts underway to keep down Nepal death toll

Nepal was hit by a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake Saturday, killing more than 2,500 people, injuring more than 6,000 others and flattening entire sections of Kathmandu, the nation’s capital.

Hospitals across the impoverished nation of 28 million people struggled to cope with the dead and injured from Nepal’s worst quake in 81 years, and a lack of equipment meant rescuers could look no deeper than surface rubble for signs of life, noted Reuters.

The death toll will most certainly rise as international search and rescue teams set up field operations.

Among the quake fatalities are at least 21 Chinese, according to reports, with unknown numbers missing.

Over 600 tourists from China and more than 30 from Hong Kong were reported to be in Nepal by tourism authorities.

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday sent a message of condolences to Nepalese President Ram Baran Yadav, and dispatched a 62-member China International Search and Rescue Team (CISAR) which arrived in Nepal on Sunday, according to Xinhua.

The CISAR team includes rescuers, medical staff, earthquake experts and engineers, as well as six dogs trained for search and rescue, Xinhua said.

Early Sunday, China pledged US$3.3 million in humanitarian aid to Nepal, including supplies of tents, blankets and generators.

The US Disaster Response Team is slated to arrive midday on Monday, while a pair of US military special forces teams are providing immediate medical assistance, said Foreign Policy.

The teams from the two countries—as well as India’s contribution of a 300-person disaster response team and a mobile hospital—are racing to keep the death toll from topping the more than 8,000 that died in Nepal’s last mega-quake in 1934, FP said.

On Sunday, the European Union pledged US$3.3 million in emergency aid for Nepal, that will go towards the most urgent needs in the worst affected areas, including clean water, medicine, emergency shelter and telecommunications.

Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Poland and Sweden are reportedly also mobilizing disaster response teams.

Nepalese residents in Hong Kong, worried over missing relatives back home, have started to organize relief efforts as well in the wake of the devastating earthquake, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Hong Kong has a long-established Nepalese community of about 40,000 people, most of them descendants of Gurkha soldiers who fought for the British army, said WSJ.

Lung S. Chan, a geophysicist at the University of Hong Kong, described the quake to WSJ as being as powerful as the explosion of more than 20 thermonuclear weapons.

Casualties from Nepal’s catastrophic earthquake were also reported in neighboring areas of China, India and Bangladesh.

About 160 kilometers (100 miles) away from Kathmandu, the quake triggered an avalanche on the slopes of Mount Everest 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, according to the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

Aftershocks and small avalanches throughout Sunday continued to plague the nearly 800 people staying at the mountain base camp and at higher elevation camps, said the New York Times.

Ada Tsang Yin-hung, a Hong Kong teacher who was planning to trek the mountain along with several women from China, was among the injured, according to the South China Morning Post.

Hong Kong’s Immigration Director Eric Chan Kwok-ki told SCMP that Tsang was one of two Hongkongers found safe but injured. He added that seven Hongkongers were still missing in Nepal.

In China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, 17 were reported dead, 53 people injured and about 12,000 evacuated, according to Xinhua.

India reported 56 dead, most of them in Bihar.

EJ Insight readers can help the victims of Nepal’s earthquake with monetary donations to the International Red Cross, UNICEF or the Gurkha Welfare Trust.

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A portion of the Mount Everest base camp is devastated after an avalanche triggered by a powerful earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday. Photo: AFP

Members of a Dutch rescue team get ready to leave with their tracker dogs for Nepal at Eindhoven Airport on Sunday. Photo: AFP

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