Following a devastating earthquake that struck Nepal just before noon on Saturday, tour operators and travel companies are beginning to respond to the crisis.
The earthquake and subsequent aftershocks have killed at least 4,000 and left more than 100,000 homeless, the Guardian reports. More than 1,300 of those killed were in the Kathmandu valley, with another 944 from the Sindulpalchuk district east of the Nepalese capital. Areas west of the earthquake's epicenter, such as Manaslu, Dhaulagiri and Annapurna, have experienced only light damage.
According to the NPR blog, the temples and court buildings in Bhaktapur, a UNESCO World Heritage site, have suffered heavy damage.
"Interestingly, the National Musuem of Nepal was left standing, virtually untouched," NPR's Julie McCarthy said. "It, among many buildings that had crumbled to the ground around it — beautiful wooden structures with intricate carved doors and windows — it was untouched, because it had been recently reinforced to withstand an earthquake."
The quake has also collapsed a number of buildings in the center of the capital, Old Kathmandu, including temples and towers that are centuries old, said USA Today. Dharahara Tower, a UNESCO-recognized historical monument, was reduced to rubble, with reports of people trapped underneath.
Rescue operations for climbers on Mount Everest began Sunday morning, the New York Times said. At least 18 climbers have been killed and 41 others injured, including three Americans. Still trapped on the mountain are hundreds of Nepalese and foreign climbers.
|Photo by G Adventures|
Travel Companies and Tour Operators Respond
In response to the disaster G Adventures has launched a $75,000 aid appeal, which has already raised $49,000 in less than 24 hours, a G Adventures spokesperson tells Travel Agent. The funds raised are intended to will support the long-term recovery of the affected communities.
“Nepal needs our help. Relief agencies are already mobilizing to provide food, shelter, and medicine to those affected by the earthquake, but it doesn’t end there. It will take months, even years to rebuild the country,” said Bruce Poon Tip, founder, G Adventures, in a release announcing the initiative.
Donations can be made at http://bit.ly/1Qx5Sv1, and further information on the campaign will be posted under the hashtag #GAdvCares on Facebook and Twitter.
Greaves Tours reports that none of its guests and staff traveling in the area of the earthquake have been affected.
"We will be in touch with all our clients who may wish to travel to the area in the near future," Greaves said in a statement on the situation. "Nepal is an ancient and peaceful mountain country with many irreplaceable monuments and structures and the loss of life and loss of their living history is beyond tragic. India and Nepal share a deep connection, both geographical and spiritual, and assistance from India, both personal and from the Government, will be constant and strong. Our Delhi office will continue to update us on developments. Our prayers are with Nepal and all those who have suffered a loss in this tragedy."
"Relief and rescue operations co-ordinated by many governments are underway. This afternoon, flights were cleared to land at Kathmandu Airport, and India and other neighboring countries have sent in military transport planes laden with medical supplies, food and water. 10 tons of blankets, 50 tons of water and 22 tons of food have been dispatched to Kathmandu and 3 Indian army field hospitals and an engineering task force and medical units of civilian doctors have been sent to Nepal. The Indian Army is also working on rescue and recovery efforts on Mount Everest. At this time the severely disrupted and limited communications are focused on dealing with the injured and assisting aid and rescue workers traveling to Nepal, to bring people safely out of the affected areas.
"Once better communications have been established, Greaves will be working with our teams and colleagues in the area to best understand local needs and priorities. At that time we will coordinate our relief efforts and seek your assistance in targeting such efforts to the benefit of the people affected in Nepal.
"In the meantime those who wish to contribute directly we would suggest the following two websites:
Those interested can also contribute to UNICEF, Red Cross, Samaritans Purse, Doctors Without Borders or American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee."
Airlines are also cutting fares to Nepal and adding more flights to help the transportation of aid workers to the area.
Low-cost carrier SpiceJet has cut its base fare for evening flights for two days starting April 27 and announced two special planes to aid the evacuation of travelers stranded in the country, The Economic Times reports. The special flights will help carry relief material and rescue teams to Nepal. Jet Airways has diverted the morning flight on April 27 from Delhi to Kathmandu to Lucknow, and the airline has delayed subsequent flights from Mumbai and Delhi, due to a critical shortage of parking bays in Kathmandu. Air India, which had suspended operations, has flown one flight from New Delhi, which landed in Kathmandu around noon.
Aidditionally, Air India has reduced its one-way fare to Kathmandu from Delhi, Kolkata and Varanasi from Rs 14,000 to Rs 4,700, Financial Express reports.
Major tech companies are also making moves to aid communications to the region. Phone companies like T-Mobile are offering free calls to and from Nepal, and mobile calling app Viber has announced its users can use Viber Out to call Nepalese mobile and land line numbers for free, Mashable reports.
How to call Nepal for free on Viber: 1) Dial the number in keypad with code +977 or 2) Select "Viber Out" from contact page— ViberHelp (@ViberHelp) April 26, 2015
Similarly, Google Voice is allowing calls at the rate of one cent using the Hangouts Dialer on an Android phone, Google Hangouts or Google Talk, Mashable said. Google opted for the one cent rate instead of free calls in order to deter spammers. Nevertheless, communication in the country remains difficult due to damage to phone lines and digital services.
U.S. Embassy Announcement
The U.S. Embassy in Nepal has issued an emergency alert for U.S. citizens as of the morning of April 27.
"The U.S. Embassy is actively monitoring the situation in Nepal and providing assistance to U.S. citizens in need," the embassy said. "We are working with Nepal Government authorities and local hospitals to locate U.S. citizens in need and provide urgent support.
"For assistance regarding U.S. citizens in Nepal, the Department of State has established a public email address ([email protected]) for all inquiries concerning U.S. citizens affected by the earthquake. You may also contact 1 888-407-4747 (from the U.S. & Canada) or +1 202-501-4444 from overseas. U.S. citizens in Nepal who need assistance can contact the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu at +977 1 - 423-4100.
"If you are making an inquiry about a U.S. citizen, please be prepared to provide the following information:
"- Your name and contact information, and relationship to the U.S. Citizen
"- Full name and date of birth of U.S. Citizen
"- U.S. citizen’s passport number, if known
"- The travel itinerary (or group information), if known
"Please visit the Embassy of the United States (http://nepal.usembassy.gov), the U.S. Embassy Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/nepal.usembassy), the U.S. Agency for International Development (http://www.usaid.gov/nepal-earthquake) or the USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/USAID.OFDA) to learn about the April 25, 2015, earthquake in Nepal, the US Government response, and how you can help."
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