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Humanitarian Groups Arrive In Nepal To Help With Earthquake Aftermath


We're going to get a sense now of the desperate situation in Nepal. The small Himalayan nation was rocked by a devastating earthquake over the weekend. The death toll is now approaching 4,000. There's unknown damage in many rural parts of the country.


And climbers are still trapped on Mount Everest. Nepal is struggling to help the tens of thousands of people who've been displaced and injured. Neighboring China and India, along with the United States, are sending disaster recovery teams along with food and medical supplies.

MONTAGNE: The Christian humanitarian aid group World Vision is one of the many that has joined the recovery efforts. We reached Phil Ewert on the line from Kathmandu. He's been their operations director in Nepal for the past two years. Welcome.

PHIL EWERT: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Let us begin with the kind of devastation that you were seeing now, a couple of days in to this terrible earthquake.

EWERT: So in my neighborhood, and across Kathmandu, in the country there's been widespread infrastructure devastation from walls down to buildings collapsed. People have spent the last several nights sleeping out in the open because they're nervous to go back in. People are dazed at the initial shock of it all. Even our own staff, you know, weren't quite sure what to do next. So it's slowgoing here.

MONTAGNE: Well, it sounds like Nepal was not very well-prepared for this earthquake, which was, in fact, expected by experts. And it's a vulnerable area there to seismic activity. As you say, is everybody surprised when it hit?

EWERT: Although it was expected, people weren't as prepared as they could be. It just shows you how vulnerable and how much more investment Nepal needs.

MONTAGNE: Well, what in fact are the biggest challenges that you're facing in terms of response?

EWERT: I think the challenges are getting access to those areas most in need. So one of the hardest hit areas is Gorkha, which is at the epicenter of the earthquake. We can drive to Gorkha, but the issue is going out from Gorkha into the villages, which generally, although there are some roads, many villages you can only access by foot. So getting to those areas we'll need helicopter support or you'll have to just walk to those areas to find out whether villages are still standing or not.

MONTAGNE: People must be very afraid because these aftershocks are like real earthquakes. So what is the feeling? Are people in this sense that this is never going to end?

EWERT: Yeah, that is the feeling that it's just going to continue. Whenever there's a small tremor, people are running, you know, for shelter. Even for myself, my legs are still a little shaky even several days after.

MONTAGNE: Well, just looking ahead, I gather the monsoon season is coming in some weeks from now. What are the big things that have to get done and may be hard to do?

EWERT: People have to have food, water and shelter. After they have those, health will start to be a key issue. The monsoon already creates issues for diarrheal diseases, mosquitoes, so sanitation is a key issue. Water is running out. Many of the hotels have actually run out of water around this city. Some are using their pools for water. That could lead into some serious disease outbreaks, which could do more damage than even the initial earthquake.

MONTAGNE: Phil Ewert is from World Vision in Nepal, speaking to us from Kathmandu. Thanks again.

EWERT: Thank you, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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