Oxfam teams are now in Kathmandu responding to Nepal’s most powerful earthquake in decades and are reporting struggling hospitals and morgues, widespread homelessness and a severe lack of clean water.
The international aid agency will today begin providing aid to the thousands of homeless people affected by the 7.8 magnitude quake that struck on Saturday. Some 30,000 people are currently living in makeshift shelters in 16 government camp locations, too scared to return to their homes for fear of the aftershocks.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said that while the full extent of the destruction would not be known for some days, there were reports of massive damage, hospitals and morgues being overwhelmed, homelessness, a lack of clean water and there were concerns about regional areas that had not yet been reached.
According to the Nepalese Government the death toll has reached more than 2500, and several thousand people are injured.
“As aftershocks continue, victims are being treated in the streets. Reports suggest there are people still trapped under the rubble, and some affected areas are still to be reached,” Dr Szoke said. “The hospitals are running out of room for storing dead bodies and also running short of emergency supplies.”
Kathmandu is a densely populated area, with 2.5 million residents. Many people live in buildings that cannot withstand a significant seismic event. More than six and a half million people live within the areas affected by this quake.
“People desperately need shelter, especially since there is rain predicted over coming days. Our disaster specialists from throughout the region are arriving to help the local teams in our response,” Dr Szoke said. “Every minute counts in a disaster of this magnitude,” Dr Szoke said.
Oxfam has mobilised its team in Nepal to provide water and sanitation and emergency food for people affected by the earthquake. As infrastructure is badly damaged, water supplies are likely to be contaminated, so clean water is a priority. Oxfam also will be providing emergency shelter such as tarpaulins, and non-food items such as hygiene materials and blankets.
In Kathmandu valley, of the 16 camp locations identified by the government, 9 are in Kathmandu, 4 in Latipur and 3 in Bhaktapur. Oxfam is working with UNICEF and will start building its first sanitation facilities in Tudikhel in Bhaktapur today, serving 1500- 2000 people in this location alone. Tomorrow, Oxfam will also be completing its assessments in the Lalitpur camp.
Cecilia Keizer, Oxfam country director in Nepal said aftershocks and the damage to roads and infrastructure are making it extremely difficult to reach out to communities outside of the Nepalese capital. Telephone lines are down and the electricity and water supplies have been damaged.
“We are managing to reach out to people in Kathmandu, but it is extremely difficult to provide support on a larger scale to the most affected areas – a lot of the main roads have been damaged,” Ms Keizer said.
“Our staff are still checking on their families and the partners we work with. At the moment, all the death count reports are coming from Kathmandu Valley. Sadly, I fear that this is only the beginning”.
The Nepalese government has appealed for international assistance especially for search and rescue, medical teams, supplies and tenting for hospitals and body bags, heavy equipment for rubble removal and helicopters for transport and access to the blocked areas.
Oxfam Australia welcomed the $5 million in humanitarian aid pledged today by the Australian Government, but said more would be needed in the coming weeks due to the sheer scale of the emergency.
Oxfam has launched a Nepal Emergency Appeal – click here to Donate to Nepal
Audio file from Country Director Cecilia Keizer here: http://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/?r=91770&k=5bd94e57d5