Caritas aid missions are reporting that villages in remote areas of Nepal have been utterly devastated by the earthquake. Speaking from Pokhari danda in Gorkha, 15 km from the epicentre, Stefen Teplan of Caritas Germany said, “Sixty percent of the village is destroyed. More than food and water, what is needed most is temporary shelter before the monsoon sets in.”
The full scale of the disaster is becoming clear. The death toll from the 7.9 magnitude earthquake increased to 6,000 with thousands still reported missing. Over 130,000 houses have been destroyed and 85,000 houses partially damaged. There are 30 out of 75 districts in the country affected. This includes mountain and hilly areas, in areas where rural populations are dispersed.
Reports from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) emergency personnel in Kathmandu tell of cold rain making life miserable for the tens of thousands who have been living outside in fear of continuing aftershocks since the earthquake struck Nepal on Saturday.
“The situation is getting critical with the rain and cold winds,” said Kushal Neogy, a member of the CRS India staff who was in Nepal during the earthquake and has stayed to help with relief efforts. “It slows down the rescue and relief operation and makes life difficult for those living on the street or in open fields.”
Caritas has reached 4,000 families in the Kathmandu Valley with plastic sheets, blankets and food. Teams have also reached some of the worst affected rural areas of Gorkha, Sindapalchowk, Nuwakot and Kavre.
“Each of these teams is staffed by experience experts,” said Pius Perumana SJ, director of Caritas Nepal. “They can evaluate what people need most.”
The priority is shelter.
“The people who have lost their homes are exposed to the rain and cold weather at night. They really need international solidarity,” said Angan Baj, Emergency Response Manager for Caritas India, who is with the team visiting villages in Gorkha.
Caritas will also be providing food, clean water and sanitation and counselling.
Caritas Internationalis Secretary General Michel Roy says Caritas has been flooded with donations and solidarity from across the globe. Caritas members worldwide have pledged 3 million euros in the first days following the quake.