Red Cross on the front lines responding to massive quake

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GENEVA– The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is preparing to mount an international emergency response to the estimated 7.8 magnitude earthquake that shook Nepal, the organization said in a statement released today.

According to the statement, volunteers and staff of Nepal Red Cross Society are working on the ground assisting in search and rescue efforts and administering first aid to the injured.

The Red Cross in Nepal has extensive experience in responding to natural disasters and plays a lead role in the government’s contingency plans for such disasters. The Red Cross blood bank in Kathmandu is also providing blood supplies to the main medical facilities in the capital.

The Red Cross has limited stocks of emergency relief items available in the country and ready to be distributed. The IFRC is also activating its logistics systems in Kuala Lumpur and Dubai in readiness to mobilize additional relief materials.

The earthquake has caused buildings to collapse in Kathmandu and hundreds of people are reported to have been killed. The main hospitals in the capital continue to function but are stretched to capacity and it is not clear the extent to which essential services have been disrupted. Strong aftershocks continue to be felt, causing a risk of further damage to many buildings and triggering concern and fear among the local population, many of whom are afraid to return to their homes.

“I was in my 5th floor apartment and the shaking was extremely violent… we could see dust rising from the hills around the city and luckily we were able to evacuate,” said a British Red Cross staff member working with the Nepal Red Cross Society in Kathmandu.

The epicentre of the quake was 80 kilometres from Kathmandu in Lamjung, Gorkha district, which suffered significant damage.

“We are extremely concerned about the fate of communities in towns and villages in rural areas closer to the epicentre,” said Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Director for Asia Pacific. “Roads have been damaged or blocked by landslides and communication lines are down preventing us from reaching local Red Cross branches to get accurate information. We anticipate that there will be considerable destruction and loss of life.”

The IFRC is mobilizing resources from its hubs in New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok and is releasing funds from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund to support the initial emergency response. To donate to the IFRC, click here.

Nepal’s National Society for Earthquake Technology had previously estimated that a large-scale earthquake in mid-Nepal could displace over 1.8 million people, kill over 100,000 and injure a further 300,000.

“We do not yet know the scope of the damage, but this is could be one of the deadliest and most devastating earthquakes since the 1934 tremor which devastated Nepal and Bihar,” said Chapagain. “People will need considerable support including food, water, medical care and emergency shelter.”

The shock was felt nationwide and as far as Pakistan Tibet and Bangladesh. It is not clear how it has affected neighbouring Sikkim, Bihar and West Bengal.