Mission agencies offer Nepal earthquake help amid fears for their own staff

A man runs through ruins as aftershocks hit Kathmandu.Reuters

Aid and development agencies are responding to the earthquake in Nepal with rescue efforts and fund-raising appeals.

More than 2,000 people are known to have died in the earthquake and its aftershocks, including climbers in the Everest area hit by an avalanche.

Many buildings in the capital Kathmandu have been destroyed and it is not known how many people have been affected in the country's remote and inaccessible regions. Agencies including the Red Cross, Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders and Christian Aid are sending relief teams and surrounding countries are flying in supplies and medical equipment and are helping with search and rescue operations. 

Aid and mission organisations have been struggling to account for their staff on the ground. However, news has been slowly coming in, with the United Misson to Nepal tweeting this afternoon: "All UMN staff and family are reported safe, please pray for nepal and people."

Tearfund's Disaster Team warned that the earthquake was "is likely to be our worst earthquake scenario: a 'perfect-storm' disaster". "The geography – the mountainous roads – mean supplies will require air-lifting in, generating a massive cost in helping remote communities," said Oenone Chadburn, Tearfund's Head of Humanitarian Support. "It's a worst-case scenario quake – some of these communities are unlikely to be accessed for a week, with landslides also a risk. A slide could affect the course of rivers, creating floods and posing huge additional risk to Bihar, India's poorest state.

"We are preparing a response team for travel, and establishing contact with staff and partners in the country. Our work will see us go out of our way to find difficult and remote locations – as part of our call to follow Jesus to the places of very greatest need. However, this brings a whole set of challenges."

The International Nepal Fellowship team based in Kathmandu spent the night securely in an open space at KISC, the international school near its office. "So far, there are no reports of INF staff or mission workers being hurt and the INF office in Kathmandu is still intact, with minor damage to equipment," it said.

Samaritan's deploying a team of 16 disaster response experts, including six medical personnel. It will be helping victims with emergency shelter, water, hygiene kits, and other emergency supplies. The charity is sending initial supplies for 15,000 households, and anticipate doing more as the response continues.

BMS World Mission said that the strength of the initial quake, as well as the multiple aftershocks, has meant extensive damage to infrastructure and communications networks, particularly in the capital, Kathmandu. "This is making the initial response challenging, but BMS has personnel already in place in and outside Kathmandu, and is in contact with longstanding and trusted local partners on the ground," it said.

The Church Mission Society said: "We give thanks that all UK CMS personnel in the country are reported safe, if shaken.
CMS regional manager Raj Patel was in Delhi, where the tremors were also felt, planning to travel on to Nepal, which he is now unable to do. He said: "Those we have managed to connect with are in a state of shock and are in some way trying to help with relief."

Christian Aid's regional emergency manager, Ram Kishan, said yesterday: "Rural areas were hit particularly hard by the earthquake, but little information has so far emerged as travel is difficult, not least because of damaged infrastructure."

He added: "It's clear from what has emerged so far that there is an urgent need for emergency shelters, food and clean drinking water, warm clothing, blankets and hygiene kits.

"The provision of civic and essential services in Nepal is weak, and hospitals and other medical services are under strain." Christian Aid is seeking donations to provide emergency shelter, food and clean drinking water, clothes and some of the basics like blankets and hygiene kits.