Death toll rises in Nepal, Southern Baptist & other Christian disaster relief teams respond

by Karen L. Willoughby |

(REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar)A general view of Bashantapur Durbar Square, a UNESCO world heritage site, after the earthquake as rescue operation goes on in Kathmandu, Nepal April 28, 2015.

KATHMANDU, Nepal (Christian Examiner) – The destruction in Nepal following a 7.8 earthquake at midday Sunday, April 26, is almost beyond comprehension, aid workers say.

More than 5,000 Nepalese have been found dead; tens of thousands more have injuries, overwhelming treatment centers; and, aftershocks still are being felt.

"We currently have teams on the ground partnering with Nepali partners conducting assessments and beginning to help meet lifeline needs such as food, water and shelter," Jeff Palmer told Christian Examiner one day after the quake hit. Palmer is executive director of Baptist Global Response.

"We were fortunate to have recently trained several Nepalese in the UN SPHERE standards for major disaster response and they are helping us with the assessments and initial responses," Palmer continued. "This will not be a short term response."

Other Christian entities known to be working toward involvement with recovery and assistance in Nepal include World Vision, Samaritan's Purse and Operation Blessing.

A Samaritan's Purse disaster response team member, who arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal, in the early morning hours on Sunday, has seen incredible destruction, death, and need in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, according to a press release by the organization.

"There's a lot of hurting people here," said Patrick Seger, team leader for the response. "I saw a number of needs out there, a number of dead people, a lot of structures had fallen. A lot of people lost their homes and lost their incomes. They're trying to figure out what they're going to do."

World Vision aid worker Matt Darvas reached Nepal's Gorkha district – the epicenter of Saturday's powerful quake – early Monday afternoon. He said almost no aid had reached there ahead of him, according to an Associated Press report.

Kathmandu district chief administrator Ek Narayan Aryal said tent and water were being handed out Monday at 10 locations in Kathmandu, but that aftershocks were leaving everyone jittery.

"There have been nearly 100 earthquakes and aftershocks, which is making rescue work difficult Aryal told AP. "Even the rescuers are scared and running because of them."

Kathmandu largely is a collection of small, poorly constructed brick apartment buildings, multiple news outlets reported. Shoddy construction materials coupled with the local practice of building ramshackle additions as a family grows contributed to the scale of the destruction.

"Please pray for the country of Nepal and its people," Palmer told Christian Examiner. "This will not be a short term response. As the initial response and dust settles, it will take a long term commitment to help Nepal recovery from this catastrophic event. BGR is committed to help now and for the long run."

Samaritan's Purse deployed a team of disaster response experts, including medical personnel. An initial airlift of 60 tons of relief supplies is on the way, but hampered because airports are jammed going into Nepal.

"Access is challenging," said Segar of Samaritan's Purse. "Please pray that the Lord will open doors and that we are able to reach those in need soon. We will help victims with shelter, water, hygiene kits, and other relief, and partner with mission hospital partners. We are sending initial supplies for 15,000 households, and anticipate doing more as the response continues."

The medical team and supplies will support mission hospitals that are Samaritan's Purse partners, Segar explained.

Operation Blessing is coordinating its relief efforts with its partner, Nepali Rescue Project, and OBI staff are enroute to the disaster site, reported that relief organization's website, www.obi.org.

"Operation Blessing will source materials, locally if possible, using cash donated by supporters in the USA and in some of the other 26 countries the charity works in daily," the entity reported. "Operation Blessing International has been working in Nepal with the Nepali Rescue Project since 2013 on a number of anti-human trafficking efforts."

Donations for materials and supplies may be made directly to these trusted relief organizations: www.gbgr.orgwww.samaritanspurse.orgwww.obi.org; and worldvision.org are among international leaders in Christian disaster relief.