People carry the body of a victim on a stretcher after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu, Nepal, April 25.

CNS PHOTO | NAVESH CHITRAKAR, REUTERS

People carry the body of a victim on a stretcher after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu, Nepal, April 25.

May 4, 2015
WCR NEWS SERVICES

KATHMANDU, NEPAL – More than 1.4 million people in Nepal are in immediate need of aid after the April 25 earthquake which devastated parts of the mountainous central Asian country.

Pope Francis offered his prayers to all of those affected by the violent 7.8 magnitude earthquake, encouraged rescue and emergency workers in their efforts and sent an initial donation of US$100,000.

As of April 28 more than 4,600 people were known to have been killed with thousands more still missing, feared trapped under the rubble.

The number of casualties is expected to be much higher as rescue teams make their way into more remote areas.

The devastation included not just buildings collapsing from the tremors, but also people and villages being buried by landslides and avalanches triggered by the quake and aftershocks.

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace sent an initial $50,000 contribution to support the efforts of its Caritas partners in the country.

Development and Peace is raising funds to meet the needs of victims. Donations can be made online at www.devp.org/donate/nepal.

The federal government will match, dollar for dollar, all donations made by Canadians to support the earthquake victims.

Caritas Nepal is providing tarps and tents to help victims protect themselves from the cold and rain. Other urgent needs are water, food, sanitary facilities and hygiene items for the earthquake victims.

"What the people need immediately is shelter," explained Jesuit Father Pius Perumana, director of Caritas Nepal. "Temperatures are dropping at night and there is also rain. Children are sleeping outside at night. It is really traumatic for them."

Perumana added: "What I have seen is a lot of destruction. So many buildings collapsed and cracked. I saw a number of bodies on the street. People are still trapped in buildings and we don't know whether they are dead or alive."

Renuka Magdalene Thakuri found refuge with other families on the grounds of the Assumption Cathedral in Kathmandu, where people are sleeping in tents.

"We feel safe in the church premises and thankful to Caritas Nepal for the tent. We have food and water, but shops and markets are closed," she said.

Santosh Kumar Magar, 29, said he was attending the ordination of a new priest in Okhaldhunga in eastern Nepal when the earthquake hit.

ANIMALS KILLED TOO

"I came out of the room, and saw two, three houses falling down around me. Some of the animals died around the same time. The people were saved because all the villagers were gathered for the ordination," he told Caritas.

A boy, identified as Ahmed, who was staying at the cathedral in Kathmandu with his family, said, "We came to the church because we know a lot of people here so we can be together and coordinate and help each other out. Now, later I feel everything is going to be all right."

Meanwhile, inclement weather and logistical pressures were delaying aid to the victims.

"The logistical problems are enormous and sadly, relief is being delayed," Perumana told Catholic News Service April 28.

Kathmandu airport had to be closed and several inbound flights had to be diverted following heavy rains late April 26.

Apart from that, dozens of international flights with rescue and relief workers and vital relief material hovered around the airport for hours for lack of landing space; the airport can accommodate only a dozen international flights.

Amid continuing strong aftershocks, thousands of families were living in the streets of Kathmandu – preferring to stay under tents in open areas, from parks to roadsides.

CALM AND RESILIENCE

Yet, even those on the roads seemed to show remarkable calm and resilience.

"We are OK. We are all here because everyone is scared by the tremors. The government should reach help to the people in the remote areas," said Yubak Grauchai, a businessman living under a tent in affluent New Plaza.

At Godavari Parish, 15 kms from Kathmandu, the Adoration Sisters put up tents and were living with two dozen young girls from Karuna Bhavan, a home for HIV orphans.