Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval are flying into Kathmandu Friday as Nepal, assisted by the Indian armed forces, steps up efforts to reach far-flung areas devastated by two powerful earthquakes over the weekend.
Official sources said Jaishankar and Doval are due in Kathmandu Friday and are likely to spend time assessing rescue and relief efforts launched under Operation Maitri (friendship) to aid Nepal in its hour of need.
Mi-17 helicopters of the Indian Air Force are operating from bases in Kathmandu and Pokhara, dropping relief material and evacuating the injured from areas outside the Valley which can no longer be reached by road.
An official said Indian helicopters have made it to the mountain district of Gorkha in the Gandaki zone of north-central Nepal and have evacuated the injured from Laprak, Arupokhari, Saurpani, Lapu and Simjung.
Nepal’s government is racing against time and weather to reach areas outside the Kathmandu Valley. Among the first countries to respond to the SOS for international help, India has 18 medical teams and 12 technical teams on the ground.
The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has deployed 16 teams for search and rescue in the rubble of toppled buildings. NDRF Director General O P Singh told The Indian Express Wednesday that his personnel have so far rescued 11 people and pulled out 85 bodies from rubble mounds.
With anger mounting against government agencies for not moving quickly on relief distribution despite a flood of international aid, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, in an address to the nation, announced three days of mourning starting Wednesday over the loss of lives.
Underlining that search-and-rescue and treatment of the injured were the first priority, Koirala said his government was “serious about rehabilitation… committed to reconstruction”.
Thanking countries for coming to Nepal’s aid, he made special mention of the neighbourhood and the initiative taken by regional leaders. He also promised to restore heritage monuments destroyed in the quakes.