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US Effort in Nepal Shifts from Rescue to Relief

  • Reuters
  • VOA News

A Nepalese man sits near a collapsed wall and a burning pyre with the mortal remains of earthquake victim Sushila Thami at an open air crematorium in Kathmandu on May 5, 2015, after her body was brought from Dolakha.

A Nepalese man sits near a collapsed wall and a burning pyre with the mortal remains of earthquake victim Sushila Thami at an open air crematorium in Kathmandu on May 5, 2015, after her body was brought from Dolakha.

Peter W. Bodde, the U.S. Ambassador to Nepal, said in Kathmandu on Tuesday that America was now shifting focus in relief efforts more than a week after the country was struck by the worst earthquake in 80 years.

The Himalayan nation has asked foreign countries to wrap up search and rescue operations 10 days after the devastating April 25 quake that killed more than 7,500 people and injured at least 14,500 people. All hopes of finding people alive in the rubble have now gone. Dozens of countries sent teams to look for survivors immediately after the 7.8-magnitude quake on April 25. Nepal now needs help keeping the survivors alive and rebuilding.

Ambassador Bodde said the U.S. was acting in close cooperation with the Nepalese government and other donors.

"What we're now looking at is that after the relief effort we have recovery and we have reconstruction," Bodde said. "We are looking at what can be done in conjunction with the other donors, very preliminary, on what can be done to help reconstruct the areas. This is a long term thing but this has to be done carefully, thoughtfully. And if we... try to do is to make sure that everything we do in the relief phase, adds to that phase, and that's where we are right now."

Many countries have pledged money that will be necessary to rebuild homes, hospitals and historic buildings.

Others, such as neighboring India, have sent trucks to deliver aid and deployed helicopters to rescue thousands of people from remote towns and villages.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced an additional $11 million (US) for Nepal earthquake response, bringing total U.S. humanitarian assistance to nearly $26 million.

The new funding will support the delivery of additional shelter materials, critical medical supplies, safe drinking water, improved sanitation services and hygiene kits to people hardest hit by the earthquake.

"We've chartered a number of helicopter flights. We've located over 10 Americans, we've brought almost 30 other nationalities back down on our flights. We have located the remains and transported the remains of four deceased Americans."

The U.S. ambassador said two additional UH-1Y Hueys and approximately 50 US Air Force personnel were due to arrive on Tuesday.

"The tools we have to react and help the government of Nepal have just increased so much that it is almost beyond imagination," Bodde said.

Fears of an outbreak of diseases when the monsoon rains arrive were dismissed by USAID disaster assistance response team leader Bill Berger.

"With the amount of medical teams that are coming in here, there'll probably be better healthcare across the country than there was before the disaster. Medical teams have been flowing in, we understand that we have very very good coverage in that regard. So, I am hopeful that we will be able to staunch anything that pops up because we have the capacity to do that now," Berger said.

A quarter of population affected

The United Nations says 8 million people - more than one quarter of Nepal's population - have been affected by the disaster.

That number includes nearly 2 million children, and UNICEF said Monday a plane delivered 40 metric tons of aid as part of an effort to provide clean water and prevent any outbreak of water-borne diseases.

The United Nations also said it is looking at a wider array of options for getting supplies to people in the most remote areas, including transporting provisions on the ground through India.

"We are still having problems getting things to people," said Orla Fagan, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. "There are people in very, very remote mountain villages."

WFP to expand efforts

The World Food Program vowed to expand efforts to get help to those in need.

"We were in communities today that we weren't in yesterday and tomorrow we will also deliver to communities that we didn't deliver to today. And we will continue at that pace, increasing that pace, escalating the number of people that we achieve, until no person who was affected by this earthquake is hungry," Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has created a website for friends and family to report missing loved ones or search for those who have checked in.

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