News : Govt Launches National Disaster Helpline 1078
New Delhi, India, April 27, 2015 -- Government of India launched a national disaster helpline 1078 as it intensified relief and rescue operations in earthquake-hit Nepal by deploying more aircraft and military helicopters which have brought back over 5,400 people from the Himalayan nation.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said the rescue operations have been stepped up despite "severe constraints" while noting that ministries concerned are working in tandem to provide all possible support to the survivors.
NDMA Member-Secretary R K Jain said the National Disaster helpline -- 1078 -- has been made operational to help people seek information about their near and dear ones. "Anybody can use this number by dialing 011-1078 and whatever request we get will be shared with agencies concerned involved in the operation," he told reporters.
The National Disaster Management Authority has also appointed a nodal officer to process requests for relief and rescue. The Foreign Secretary said so far over 5,400 Indians including 30 foreign nationals have been evacuated including 2091 by the Indian Air Force.
Home Secretary L C Goyal said there have been 72 casualties reported from four states of Bihar (56), Uttar Pradesh (12), West Bengal (3) and Rajasthan (1).
The Foreign Secretary said various countries have requested India to rescue their citizens struck in Nepal. "We have received requests for overflight also." Defence Secretary Mathur said the government was considering involving Gorkha ex-servicemen in Nepal to help the rescue teams.
He said four C-17 Globemasters, three C-130J Super Hercules, three IL-76 and two AN-32 aircraft were pressed into service. Extensive helicopter operations have also commenced. Earlier in the day, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth chaired a high-level meeting to take stock of the multi-agency relief operations being carried out in Nepal.
The Foreign Secretary said water, food, medicines, milk products, communication sets and oxygen regenerators have been sent to Nepal by five military aircraft. He said communication systems are "badly needed" there.
Jaishankar said two separate teams of Power Grid Corporation and Indian Oil Corporation have also reached Nepal to help authorities in restoring power and fuel supply respectively.
"The big change from yesterday to today was movement on the ground," he said.
Home Secretary Goyal said about 150 buses and 21 trucks carrying relief material are going to Nepal from various border points in India.
"Railways has agreed to add additional boogies at Gorakhpur and Raxaul in order to facilitate further movement of people coming from Nepal," he said. Goyal said around 300 people in India have been injured in the quake including 175 in Bihar, 70 in Uttar Pradesh and 35 in West Bengal among others.
He said four teams of NDRF have been deployed in Bihar and one in Uttar Pradesh. Responding to a question, the Home Secretary said the Centre was ready to relax rules for NGOs to facilitate relief materials to Nepal.
"I have not come across any complaint. But we are ready to look into any rules which might come in the way of NGOs in extending support to the affected people," he said.
Mathur said two MI 17 helicopters and as many Advanced Light helicopters have been pressed into rescue operations near Pokhra, which was close to the epicentre of Saturday’s earthquake.
He said six helicopters are on stand-by and 337 people have been moved to safer locations by the helicopter rescue teams.
The Foreign Secretary said elderly people, women, children and the injured are on government’s priority for evacuation.
"We are working under very very serious constraints," he said adding Kathmandu airport is under tremendous pressure and some of helicopters are operating from some other locations. Asked about the number of Indians stranded in Nepal, he said it would be difficult to quantify them as visitors to that country enter via many transit points and different immigration norms.
To a question on reports that RSS is sending its men to help earthquake affected people in Nepal, Goyal said "Everyone is welcome to provide relief material or any help." He said he has instructed SSB to send 10 medical teams with equal number of ambulances to the neighbouring country. Asked about casualties in Everest, he said that it would be difficult to give any details as he was yet to receive input from credible sources.
India has rushed 22 tons of food packets and dry rations, 50 tons of mineral water, two tons of medicines and 40 tents and 1400 blankets.
IMD Chief L S Rathod said since 6 AM, there were no aftershocks and that the weather in and around Kathmandu is better.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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India is a vast South Asian country with diverse terrain – from Himalayan peaks to Indian Ocean coastline – and history reaching back 5 millennia. In the north, Mughal Empire landmarks include Delhi’s Red Fort complex, massive Jama Masjid mosque and Agra’s iconic Taj Mahal mausoleum. Pilgrims bathe in the Ganges in Varanasi, and Rishikesh is a yoga center and base for Himalayan trekking.
Published: Tuesday, April 28, 2015