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.