The Nepal Earthquake and our Response: Update as at 4 May 2015

This is an update on the first posting made on 29 April: to avoid confusion and duplication the Gurkha Brigade Association (GBA) and the Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) will now produce a common Situation Report, to be posted when available and as necessary, on both the GBA and GWT websites.

The latest report GWT report, as at 1215hrs Monday 4 May, is below:

1. General. Phase 1 of the national and international relief effort (Search & Rescue) has ended and the national and international relief effort is focussed on Phase 2: Recovery and Stability Operations. Media attention has shifted to the Middle Hills and we are increasingly involved in relief activities. Aftershocks and landslides continue to hamper land movement. Helicopter (heli) movement remains restricted by weather and shortage of assets. Phase 3 – long term re-build – remains some way off! UN and other agencies have stated their frustration at bureaucratic and logistic logjams that are affecting the receipt and onward movement of relief supplies from KTM Airport. There are signs that the population shares this frustration which is directed at Nepali government and institutions.

2. Gurkha Welfare Scheme (GWS) Activities. GWS, our field arm, report that their initial patrol deployment has ended. This was focussed on the immediate areas around those Area Welfare Centres (AWCs) most badly affected by the earthquake with the tasks of gathering intelligence in support of the relief effort. A more extensive patrol programme is now being implemented using resources re-deployed from other AWCs which are relatively unaffected by the disaster: six patrols in support of AWC Gorkha; three in support of AWC Lamjung; others in Dhading in support of Patrol Base Jiri/AWC Bagmati. Their tasks include the provision of intelligence in support of the wider relief effort and the delivery of immediate medical aid. Land travel in all areas remains difficult with roads and tracks damaged requiring detours etc. AWC Gorkha is working alongside a contingent of 80 members of the Gurkha contingent Singapore Police force and serving members of the Brigade sent as part of the UK’s response to the disaster. AWC Bagmati/Patrol Base Jiri is working closely with KAAA with a focus on the Dhading area. Initial reports indicate both casualties and deaths amongst WPs. It is also clear that damage extends well beyond the immediate areas of concern to include all AWCs. Further reports over the next couple of days will add some welcome clarity to what currently remains a somewhat confused picture.

3. Key developments.

a. GWS Reinforcements. An application has been made to MOD for some reinforcements to HQ GWS to give them some additional planning capability: a Chief of Staff (ideally from the serving Brigade) to assist not only with current activities but also to assist in the planning of future activities; a Medical rep to assist with the planning and delivery of what is likely to be a considerably up-gunned medial scheme; four additional staff again from the serving Brigade to act as liaison officers with other relief agencies which are beginning to reach the more remote areas. It is hoped that these will be in place later this week.

b. Support to DFID. AWC Tanahun has been made available to DFID as a forward operating base.

c. The Serving Brigade.

(1) The UK response includes a number of asserts from the serving Brigade. They are a welcome addition and where possible will work alongside GWS staff.

(2) HQBG has also reported that a significant number of dependants of serving personnel (parents etc) have reported damage to property. Many are ex-Gurkhas.

(a) The Brigade/MOD is responding by allowing personnel whose dependants are affected to travel to Nepal on a specific category of compassionate leave to provide immediate support.

(b) GWT does not remain immune from the interests of the serving Brigade. Note that we already provide considerable support to the Brigade for Casualty Reporting, applications for compassionate leave, support to recruiting etc. Activities in response to an emergency should be seen as an obvious extension to this support. In consultation with Dir GWS the following has been agreed as an immediate response:

– With support from HQ BGN GWS will engage with dependants of serving personnel where possible and appropriate.

– GWS are in the process of procuring a number (500) of emergency packs comprising tentage/tarpaulin for shelter, food, medical supplies, cooking utensils,

solar powered USB for phone re-charging for delivery to those in urgent need, including dependants of serving personnel. The stores have been funded by GWS and are currently being delivered to Pokhara for sorting and distribution.

– Delivery/distribution will initially be by GWS Staff. However, Dir GWS as Comd BGN has made a bid to MOD for 80 additional serving personnel from the serving Brigade (QGE) to assist in the delivery of this aid/support to dependants of serving personnel.

d. Trust Supporters. Trustees are aware of the amazing response from our supporters. Donations continue to arrive in abundance and the office has remained manned over the holiday period. Given the extent of this support it is essential we maintain a narrative via all media to keep our supporters engaged.

e. Information Activities. There is potential for further media interest with serving soldiers accompanying both BBC and ITV film crews in the areas where we have or will have a presence.

4. Summary. With Phase 1 of the relief effort complete and with a move towards Phase 2, the situation is beginning to stabilise and the extent of the disaster in the more remote areas is becoming apparent. The shortage of helicopters is a serious impediment to delivering relief. It is hoped that will improve in the days ahead as additional heli assets arrive in country, including the UK’s three Chinooks.

5. GWT will provide a further update at the end of the week.

You would also wish to know that:

Donations.

* Donations to the GWT Earthquake Response Fund now exceed £500,000. This includes two five-figure donations by Regimental Associations.

* Donations in support of the GWT Earthquake Response Fund can be made online or by texting FUND27 £10 to 70070*. Please do not send clothes or any other stores as we cannot get them out to Nepal.

* US tax payers can now make tax efficient donations to GWT via CAF America, which has listed us under the organisations responding to the disaster. Please see this link: https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/helpnepal/

British Gurkhas Nepal (BGN).

* There are huge demands on BGN as many agencies lack their own organic resources.

* Structural assessments on Infrastructure and associated services in BG Pokhara, AWC Kaski and the Gurkha Museum in Pokhara have been completed: most cracking is legacy and has previously been reported, new cracking is not structural, and all buildings are fit for occupancy.

Situation in Nepal.

* Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu is open 24 hours a day but, due to incoming goods and response teams, as well as departing people, the airport is congested.

* Electricity has been restored in most of Kathmandu.

* Telecommunication and internet services are functional in Kathmandu City.

* The Government of Nepal has asked the international community, including NGOs, to seek the consent of the offices concerned before delivering aid to the quake victims. The need for effective coordination as well as smooth handling is the reason behind this request.

* Many people are leaving the Kathmandu Valley to join their families in less-affected areas. On 28 April alone 300,000 people left the Valley by road.

* Roads. Most major roads in the country are open.

* Security. There have been instances of relief materials destined for one area being appropriated by another, and of relief teams being forced to distribute their materials elsewhere.