Follow the Mercy Corps earthquake response in Nepal


April 29, 2015

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  • People shelter under a makeshift tent. Thousands have been sleeping outside for fear of re-entering damaged buildings. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

Since the first massive Nepal earthquake struck near Kathmandu on April 25, Mercy Corps’ team on the ground has been working tirelessly to address the urgent needs of survivors. Historic buildings and entire villages crumbled to the ground, and people are sleeping outside, too terrified by continued aftershocks to return to severely damaged homes.

Scroll down to read about our team’s emergency response efforts after the earthquake. You can help by donating to our Nepal Earthquake Response Fund ▸

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake — the worst to hit the region in 80 years — affected approximately 8 million people across 40 percent of Nepal, reaching the slopes of Mt. Everest and into neighboring Tibet and India. A second, 7.3 magnitude earthquake hit on May 12, causing more suffering for those who survived the initial quake.

Nepal remains one of the poorest countries in the world, and survivors have few resources to help them recover. Families need immediate clean water, food and temporary shelter supplies.

Mercy Corps has one of the largest teams on the ground in Nepal reaching survivors with emergency supplies and evaluating conditions in some of the hardest-hit and remote areas. Our team is addressing urgent, immediate needs and is also planning for longer-term recovery efforts.

Friday, May 15

While Tuesday's major earthquake did not create the same scale of widespread devastation as the first 7.8 quake, it caused additional damage, including more collapsed homes and landslides that blocked narrow hillside roads — and heightened stress and fear for people trying to recover.

The team checked on their own families and monitored continued aftershocks and tremors before returning to the field yesterday to deliver more relief supplies to overlooked villages.

Jasmine Avgerakis sent in these photos from the journey to Sindhupulchowk district, much if the damage new since the Tuesday earthquake:

About 300 people are sleeping in makeshift tents on this open piece of land because they are worried about landslides.

An additional 20,000 kits of hygiene, shelter and kitchen supplies will arrive over the weekend. Roads are being cleared relatively quickly, which will help the team reach more survivors in the four districts identified as most in need, including Sindhupulchowk.

Tuesday, May 12

Another strong earthquake hit Nepal more than two weeks after the terrifying quake struck on April 25th. Our teams are currently assessing the new damage and will work to continue our emergency supply distributions, which will only be more critical in the wake of this new disaster.

The estimated 7.3 magnitude quake’s epicenter was about 52 miles northeast of Kathmandu. Powerful aftershocks continued throughout the afternoon, with several over a 5 on the Richter scale, and one clocking in at 6.3 magnitude.

You can help by donating to our Nepal Earthquake Response Fund ▸

All Mercy Corps staff members are safe and accounted for in Nepal after this new shock. All team members in our Kathmandu office were sent home with two tarps to help protect their families during the next few days.

We also donated tarps and tents to the local youth association in the neighborhood of our Kathmandu office — many families will be sleeping outside at the youth center tonight.

A renewed sense of fear is palpable in Nepal after today’s new earthquake. “People are very scared, and it is expected that people will sleep outside,” said Mercy Corps' Director of Programs Jeff Shannon. The team is expecting a new delivery of emergency supply kits from India. “We are hopeful that the new earthquake won’t have delayed this.”

Read a first-hand account of the new earthquake from a Mercy Corps staff member ▸

The new distributions will focus initially on the Kavre and Sindhupulchowk districts. “These districts were heavily hit by the first earthquake and it is expected that communities will have suffered further from the second earthquake,” said Shannon. Houses that were damaged before may now be completely destroyed.

Monday, May 11

Distributions of emergency supplies continue as people are beginning the long road towards recovery. Our team is delivering supplies both in Kathmandu and in other critical areas that are more difficult to access.

We have teams setting up in four different high-priority districts: Dolokha, Sindhupalchowk, Kavre, and Nuwakot. They will stay in these places indefinitely to help manage Mercy Corps’ emergency response efforts as they continue.

Many villages are still only accessible by foot or by helicopter. Mercy Corps team members delivered shelter kits by helicopter to women-headed and bereaved households in the remote mountain village of Lapa in the Dhading district.

Mercy Corps team members load and pack a helicopter for distributions to the remote village of Lapa. All photos: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

Lapa is normally a three-day journey on foot from the capital of Dhading district through mountainous terrain.

The relief kits contained: tarps, clothing, water purification liquid, blankets, soap, sanitary supplies, rope and other household items.

The BBC provided video coverage of the distribution and one man's quest to deliver supplies to his home village. Watch here ▸

Thursday, May 7

Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

As our team in Nepal continues to help people in need in communities across the country, they are also relaying their thanks to the many donors who have made our emergency response efforts possible.

Yesterday, Jeff Shannon, Mercy Corps’ Director of Programs in Nepal, was able to join us during a web call for a conversation about the realities on the ground and our response after the disaster.

“This was a terror that didn’t end after one massive earthquake. It kept going. This went on for days," Shannon said of the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake and subsequent aftershocks.

Despite having many of their homes destroyed or damaged, our staff members have made helping other families in need their number one priority.

"The challenge for us is finding affected communities. These are 'Invisible' communities — they’re not on maps, they don’t have a voice. We’ve got to go out and find these eight million people who are scattered across this amazing mountainous terrain. It is daunting."

Shannon said that the resilience of communities in Nepal is showing, even in such tough circumstances, which is what's most powerful to him. “In the midst of this unimaginable trauma, Nepalis are showing how strong they are.”

Click here to view a recording of the live online briefing from Nepal. (Click here for additional instructions on viewing the webinar.)

Monday, May 4

Today and over the weekend our teams on the ground in Nepal have been focused on preparing and delivering emergency kits to families living on the outskirts of Kathmandu.

These villages, just outside the bustling capital, have been overlooked until now. Most relief efforts have been largely concentrated in Kathmandu itself or in the most rural, remote areas of the country. Learn more about Nepal's invisible villages ▸

Our teams reached three villages that had yet to receive any aid after the earthquake. They distributed emergency kits with tarps, clothing, water purification tablets, hygiene supplies and food. One village requested sleeping mats, which we were also able to provide.

Reaching so many people can be a logistical challenge, but our teams are working hard — they are continuously buying new items where they can and preparing the emergency kits to be delivered.

We received these photos from the field of their distributions to three villages on the outskirts of Kathmandu:

All photos: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

Friday, May 1

Our relief effort in Nepal is expanding to reach people who are just now receiving aid for the first time. The Mercy Corps team delivered emergency relief kits this week to a small village just outside Kathmandu that had yet to receive any assistance.

In the village, there are about 400 people and 65 different families. People in the village told our team that they are concerned about their health. They can’t sleep, they have aches and asthma, and many have been injured while trying to clear the rubble.

People don’t have money to buy what little food is available, and most villagers have lost all of their rice seed, which would normally be planted a few weeks from now.

We distributed emergency kits to the village and showed people how to use the water purification tablets to clean their water supply. While our team was there, people took advantage of a break in the rain to hang clothes and blankets out to dry.

Our teams are currently assessing needs in all six of the hardest-hit districts of Nepal in order to provide the most-needed relief in the coming weeks.

Thursday, April 30

The streets of Kathmandu are dramatically different than they were just one week ago. Our team reports that rows and rows of shops are shuttered, and markets that are usually bustling with the city’s rhythm are now empty, with no people in sight. Would-be shoppers are instead working with their neighbors to clear debris from the historic temples that are an important part of daily life in Nepal.

People help clear debris in Kathmandu. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

Shops that are usually bustling with people are now empty and shuttered. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps.

Mercy Corps team member Chet Tamang loads supplies onto a truck to be distributed to families. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

While search and rescue efforts were a huge priority in the first 72 hours after the deadly quake, attention is now shifting towards long-term recovery. We are increasingly focused on the health and hygiene issues that come with life after a disaster.

We are assessing water and sanitation infrastructure and emphasizing hygiene practices in rural villages — where many bodies and dead animals have been found — in order to prevent the spread of any disease.

Our team continues to deliver emergency supplies to families in need. We will also begin distributing solar lamps with our kits, which will help people take care of their families during the long, rainy nights that have plagued the area over the past week.

Wednesday, April 29

Our team was among the first this week to travel to some of Nepal's most remote areas by helicopter to deliver emergency supplies. The team flew over Ghyachhok village, 53 miles northwest of Kathmandu — which has been entirely inaccessible by road — and distributed water purification tablets, tarps, cooking utensils and other essentials to the entire village.

We’ve also sent six teams to assess conditions in districts that are hours from the capital and have been identified by the government as having significant need. The information they gather will be used to coordinate our relief and recovery efforts with the U.N., the local government and other organizations.

The team also delivered supplies to the small village of Chapagaon, less than 10 miles south of Kathmandu. Families received kits that will help them shelter from the rain and survive in these days immediately after the disaster.

Distribution of supplies in Chapagaon. Photos: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

Many families in this village have had their homes destroyed or are too scared to sleep in partially-damaged buildings. People are sleeping outside in tents, and some are seeking refuge in basic shelters on a nearby mushroom farm.

See more photos from Chapagaon ▸

Wednesday, April 29

While our team has been out in Kathmandu, they have seen communities working together to clear debris and look for survivors amidst the rubble. Rescue operations are still a high priority in the city, as families hope to find relatives who've managed to survive.

Our field team sent these photos of the devastating destruction in Kathmandu's Basantapur Durbar square, and of people working together to clear the rubble:

All photos: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

Tuesday, April 28

Unseasonable rains are making conditions even worse for families sleeping out in the open. “With more storms in the forecast there is heightened concern about flooding and mudslides, especially outside the city centers where whole villages have been destroyed,” reported Christy Delafield, Mercy Corps Senior Communications Officer from Kathmandu.

"We had quite heavy rain that lasted for hours, so for all of these people who are sleeping outside, it got really cold, and all these people have are tarps," added Program Director Jeff Shannon. "There are a lot of women and children outside. People don’t have a place to go. The most important thing that Mercy Corps is doing is giving people something over their heads to stay warm.”

A temporary tent is now set up outside of the Mercy Corps Kathmandu office to help shelter survivors. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

38 people are now sleeping under the makeshift tent while rains batter the city. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

Our team set up a makeshift tent outside the Mercy Corps office to offer some shelter for survivors who have nowhere to go. A total of 38 people are now sleeping under this tent for fear of returning to damaged and dangerous buildings.

Yashoda and her three year-old son are taking shelter under the tent after their house was destroyed. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

Yashoda Khatri, 23, and her son, Amir, 3, are just a couple of the survivors taking shelter under the makeshift tent. Their house was destroyed when the earthquake hit.

Families like hers are struggling to survive after the deadly earthquake. Our team met one family with a harrowing story of survival that is all too common in the days after such a catastrophic disaster. The family fled their home when the earthquake hit, but one family member returned to the damaged building and was killed.

They’ve been wearing the same clothes for days and have spent nearly all of what little cash they had on them. They are now suffering from sore throats, coughs, dizziness, anxiety and fatigue. For now, they are sleeping in a temporary tent shelter while they wait to be able to return home to at least collect their belongings. Recovery for them will be an uphill battle.

Aftershocks continue to be a dangerous concern for people in Nepal, and seismic experts say that such shocks could last a full month. Our team is continuing distributions emergency kits and working hard to gather more supplies to help people affected by the quake. In the coming days they will be trying to reach remote areas that have yet to receive assistance.

Above Kathmandu, tents now scatter the landscape. Photo: Miguel Samper for Mercy Corps

We now have more than 100 Mercy Corps staff on the ground working to respond quickly to the urgent needs of survivors. Program Director Jeff Shannon reported more on the conditions and immediate response plans:

"A lot of our attention is here in Kathmandu. It was really badly hit and there are a lot of poor people. It’s not high-rises that have been affected, it’s the really poor that have been affected.

We are also getting reports from villages now. They are invisible. They aren't on the map, they have no voice. Nobody knows they even exist. Through staff, family, relatives, and friends, we are starting to find some of these places.

One person who just came back this morning says these villages are gone. There’s nothing left standing in those areas.

The teams are going out tomorrow morning — we are going to be looking at needs for shelter, water, health and shops, too. What do the shops need to rebuild, restock, and start selling stuff again?

We’re also looking at cash transfers. People are going to need to have money. People have to be able to get food and water. For now, we are delivering water purification tablets for drinking.Cholera is something I am concerned about. There are usually outbreaks during Monsoon season, which is coming up."

You can help by donating to our Nepal Earthquake Response Fund ▸

Monday, April 27

Our team on the ground is currently distributing emergency supplies to survivors of this weekend’s massive 7.8 earthquake in Nepal. Many of them have experienced their own losses and tragedies, but continue to work tirelessly to help their neighbors survive.

Mercy Corps staff member Chet and his home that was destroyed by the earthquake. Photo: Mercy Corps

Today we received this report from Mercy Corps staff member Chet Tamang in a village about 25 miles southeast of Kathmandu:

“I am safe with my family but the situation is getting worse. After I heard that my house in my village (Kavre) had been reduced to rubble, I travelled there together with my wife. My children are with my brother and mom in Kathmandu. I am now in Kavre helping my father and relatives to clear debris and manage temporary shelter.

This is the worst disaster I have ever experienced. The damage is so huge and wide that government assistance hasn't reached our village yet. Almost all houses in my village are not suitable for living. We have experienced more than 30 aftershocks and the rain is making the situation worse.

My family members in Kavre and Kathmandu are staying outside their houses due to fear of frequent aftershocks. I hope the situation will improve soon.”

A team of seasoned Mercy Corps emergency responders is currently being deployed to Nepal to assist our staff in our immediate response and reaching some of the more remote areas — as well as planning for longer-term recovery efforts.

The government of Nepal has also requested that we distribute additional household supplies, shelter kits and tarps as soon as possible.

Mercy Corps staff distribute supplies in the Patan area, just southeast of Kathmandu. Photo: Mercy Corps

People in the Patan area are gathering outside in tents. Many are too scared to return to partially damaged buildings. Photo: Mercy Corps

Aftershocks have continued to shake areas of Nepal, contributing to a sense of fear and chaos. Thousands of people have been sleeping outside, scared to return home to damaged buildings that may collapse. It’s been reported that some smaller villages have been completely leveled, with no homes left standing.

We are now building a plan to reach remote areas that are vulnerable and need assistance. The damage in these more rural areas is still undetermined, and it could take days to get there due to damaged roads.

Scenes of destruction around and outside of Kathmandu. Photos: Mercy Corps

Sunday, April 26

Our team in Nepal today is quickly prepping emergency supply kits for survivors of yesterday’s deadly earthquake. Each kit will supply a family with items like clothing, cooking utensils, towels, water purification tablets and hygiene supplies to meet their daily needs.

Supplies in the kits include clothing, blankets, cooking tools and water purification tablets. Photo: Mercy Corps

The team reported today that conditions are still extremely precarious; most people are sleeping outside for fear of damaged buildings collapsing from continued tremors.

“The emergency is not over,” noted Jared Rowell, Senior Program Officer for the region. “Aftershocks continue, some as strong as 6.7 magnitude, all through the Kathmandu Valley and are being felt throughout the country.”

Get the latest facts, figures and insights about the Nepal Earthquake ▸

“We just felt a big tremor,” said Mercy Corps Country Director Sanjay Karki right after this morning’s huge aftershock. “It is pretty terrifying.”

Mercy Corps has more than 90 staff members in Nepal, one of the largest humanitarian teams on the ground. Most are Nepalese and have suffered their own losses and damaged homes.

“There are major communications challenges, so it is difficult for people to find out if their relatives are safe,” says Karki.

We expect the situation to become clearer in the next few days so we can scale up our response and reach areas where we will have the greatest impact for survivors.

Saturday, April 25

Mercy Corps is mobilizing an emergency response in Nepal following this morning's 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which struck just northwest of the capital of Kathmandu.

Aftershocks continue to threaten survivors, and we do not yet know the full extent of the damage — it's the worst earthquake to hit the region in 80 years.

Some of the first photos of the damage in Nepal:

Damage and destruction in the Kathmandu Valley. Photo: Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi-UNDP Nepal

People search for family members in the rubble of collapsed houses. Photo: REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

A man cries while walking past some of the damage. Photo: REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

People clear debris while searching for survivors in the rubble. Photo: Omar Havana/Getty Images

A man runs past damaged houses during one of the aftershocks. Photo: REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Reports of injuries and devastation continue to rise, and we are concerned that the loss of life and livelihoods could be very significant in this fragile country where almost a third of the population lives in poverty.

"As we better understand the needs on the ground, we will deploy our teams to where they'll have the greatest impact," says Mercy Corps CEO Neal Keny-Guyer.

Communities need immediate support to get back on their feet: rebuilding homes and schools, returning to work and processing the trauma.

"From experience we know that as we rush to meet humanitarian needs, it's critical we keep an eye on longer term rebuilding and recovery," says Keny-Guyer. "We are there to help connect the survivors of this earthquake to the resources they need."

How you can help

  • Donate to our Humanitarian Response Fund: Your gift will help people in Nepal recover and support our emergency efforts to crises in Syria, South Sudan, Ukraine and around the world. Give now ▸
  • Fundraise for survivors: Our team is able to quickly respond to natural disasters because of supporters like you — and the more people who come together to help, the more people we can reach. Spread the word to your family and friends: Start a fundraising page for Nepal ▸