Over the weekend our Disaster Response Team have been working hard in Nepal as part of the urgent relief effort needed following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred 12 days ago (April 25 2015).
We initially believed our key involvement would be in helping authorities and relief agencies with logistics at the Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu including ramp management and planning, cargo handling, warehousing logistics and coordination. However, over the course of the last few days we have become increasingly involved in facilitating urgently needed helicopter flights enabling medical and search and rescue teams to quickly reach remote and isolated areas.
Due to good relations with contacts in Nepal built over many years, over the last few days MAF have secured the use of two Airbus AS350 helicopters operated by a helicopter company based in Nepal. On Friday 1 May the MAF team received a request from the UK government Department for International Development (DFID) to use these helicopters to rescue eight British tourists who were stranded at a monastery at Serang Gompa, Bihi near Lho.
On Saturday the helicopters were mobilized and the British nationals successfully rescued.
The location didn’t initially look that isolated as it was only 20 nautical miles but the situation out there was absolutely desperate and it would take 3.5 hours of driving and 8 hours trek on foot.
This work continued over the weekend, with a 4 further flights on behalf of DFID to fly UK Search and Rescue teams to different locations and yesterday we flew a surgical team from UK who will be stationed for two days at remote villages to carry out life-saving operations. Due to the success of the work this weekend and the clear and urgent need for a co-ordinated light helicopter response facility for NGOs to use to transport humanitarian aid workers, the UK government DFID have agreed to part-fund MAF to set up and run a co-ordinated helicopter facility and the MAF Member Groups will be launching fundraising activity to raise the additional funds we need for this important life-saving work.
6 MAF staff have formed our well-equipped Disaster Response Team and will continue to coordinate our support in Nepal.
In addition to the helicopter flight facilitation over the weekend, the team have also been working on logistics at the airport including training on the DFID-donated cargo loading equipment (see photo).
Using this equipment means improved and accelerated flow of aid cargo with quicker delivery to aid agencies and ultimately earlier distribution to end beneficiaries and faster cargo extraction from aircraft to transit area thus freeing up apron slots at the airport for more landings per day. In addition to using this equipment to assist smaller NGOs and the UN World Food Programme, the aim is also for the MAF team to train national Nepali staff at the airport to use this equipment to help build ongoing staff capacity to continue cargo handling operations in a safe and efficient manner.
Please continue to pray for our team on the ground in Nepal. Pray for strength and wisdom as they work so hard to meet the increasing demands for our services. Praise the Lord for the successful flights that we have been able to facilitate so far and for the estimated 4,000 humanitarian relief workers currently engaged in this relief effort. Pray also for our fundraisers across the whole MAF family as they engage with donors and supporters and share the work we are doing in Nepal.
Please also continue to pray for the people of Nepal. With a death toll of more than 7,500 and over 14,500 injured, the country now faces the risk of serious outbreaks of disease. A lack of shelter, contaminated water and poor sanitation could lead to cholera, dysentery and other water-borne diseases and urgent action is needed to tackle this before the rainy season starts in June. The UN also estimates that there are 3 million people in need of food aid, 130,000 houses destroyed and 24,000 people living in makeshift camps.