Leaders, Charities Offer Condolences, Help After Nepal Quake

By GREGORY KATZ

(NOTE: Click here to see a gallery of images from this earthquake.)

LONDON (AP) — World leaders and global charities offered condolences and emergency aid to Nepal following the earthquake Saturday while grappling to understand the scope of the disaster.

With Internet and cellphone communications spotty, and many roads closed due to damage, the outside world did not yet have a clear picture of what is most needed following the earthquake that authorities say has killed more than 1,000 people.

But it was clear that help was needed — and fast.

“We are treating it as a big emergency,” said Ben Pickering, Save the Children’s humanitarian adviser in Britain. “We know the damage is extensive and that access into rural areas will be very, very difficult for everybody.”

“Children will be affected in many ways. Physical injuries. Separated from families,” he said. “The priority now is understanding the scale, what the emergency needs are right now and in the coming weeks.”

Several charities were assembling disaster teams — based on the assumption that sanitation, shelter and medical help are urgently required — but the most convenient pathway into Nepal was not available because the international airport in Kathmandu was shut down by the quake.

Pickering said Save the Children plans to send a specialist team as soon as possible to help with food, water and sanitation in Nepal, one of the world’s poorest countries.

Doctors Without Borders said four teams would leave Sunday morning for Nepal from Bihar state in India, where the charity has worked since 2007 and which is close to the Nepal border. The organization is also sending in 3,000 kits including medical supplies.

AmeriCares has also sent a team from India and is preparing shipments of medical aid and relief supplies. “We are prepared to help any way that we can,” said AmeriCares President and CEO Michael J. Nyenhuis. “This is a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the families suffering.”

Mica Bevington, spokeswoman for Handicap International, which was already established in Nepal with 47 workers, said, “One of our projects there, because it’s earthquake-prone, is to help hospital staffs, physical therapists and others to anticipate the kind of injury we tend to see after a quake. … Many of the people we were helping were already disabled, so today we’re helping get them to safety. And we’re sharing our resources, like all our wheelchairs are going to two hospitals in need.”

French aid group Doctors of the World (Medecins du monde) said it has mobilized its workers in Nepal — based in Kathmandu and Chautara to work on maternal and infant health — to help quake victims. It is sending more staffers and medical aid to the region immediately.

The European Union is considering “some budget support” to Nepal, according to a joint statement Saturday by the EU’s foreign policy chief, development chief and humanitarian chief. It did not provide details or amounts.

They said the EU is also looking into “how we can help Nepal to deal with the destroyed and damaged buildings and how to help its citizens.”

“The full extent of the casualties and damage is still unknown but reports indicate they will likely be high, both in terms of loss of life, injuries and damage to cultural heritage,” they said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders also promised help for Nepal. Cameron said on Twitter that Britain “will do all we can to help those caught up in it.”

The U.S. Embassy in Nepal announced $1 million in initial aid and the U.S. Agency for International Development activated an urban search and rescue team. The U.S. State Department also set up an email address and phone number for anyone who knows of U.S. citizens needing assistance in Nepal.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende said the Scandinavian country would allocate 30 million kroner ($3.8 million) to aid work, and that the money would be sent through the United Nations and charitable organizations.

“We are following the situation closely and we will find out whether to contribute further when we know more,” Brende said in a statement.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry said it has made available 300,000 euros ($326,000) of emergency aid for earthquake victims. The aid will be channeled through the International Red Cross.

French President Francois Hollande said France is “ready to respond to requests for help and assistance” from Nepalese authorities. The tiny, wealthy country of Monaco said it would send emergency aid “in the coming hours.”

Among other countries sending condolences was Mexico, which suffered an 8.1-magnitude earthquake that killed an estimated 9,500 people in the nation’s capital in 1985. Mexico’s foreign ministry said it stood in solidarity with the government of Nepal and the relatives of the earthquake victims.

In New York, Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America, said the disaster requires “global assistance.”

“We fear the deaths and casualty numbers could go up for days,” she said. “We from the temple society will be collecting funds and forwarding them — as soon when we know where to send them.”

___

Associated Press writers Anita Snow in Mexico, Angela Charlton in Paris, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Karl Ritter in Rome and Jim Fitzgerald in New York contributed.

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