London, Apr 27: The desperate effort to save lives in earthquake-ravaged Nepal intensified today as aid flights arrived carrying emergency medical teams, search-and-rescue equipment and tarps for shelter.
Governments, charities and development agencies also announced broader plans for further help to arrive in the coming days and weeks. Priority at the damaged international airport in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, was given to aid flights carrying either doctors or search teams, said Capt. Chezki, an Israeli air force pilot who landed an early aid flight and then returned to Israel.
He could only be identified by his first name according to Israeli military guidelines. He told The Associated Press that not every flight that wants to land can do so because of conditions at the airfield. "It's a challenge," he said. "A lot of the airport was damaged."
He said his squadron dropped off boxes with aid as quickly as possible and set up camp to help the injured before returning to Israel with some injured people who were medically cleared for travel. Aid experts said disruptions at the airport are likely to continue, slowing the arrival and distribution of vitally needed supplies.
Kipp Branch, senior medical supply officer for the MAP International charity, said the group is putting together an extensive medical supply shipment that will only be sent once it has clearance to land and distribute emergency health supplies intended to support 10,000 people for three months.
"The challenge now is getting the airport up and running," he said from Brunswick, in the US state of Georgia, where he is organizing the shipment that will likely be sent from the Netherlands via a commercial cargo flight. He said the huge amount of aid being sent means the airport will be challenged to accommodate all of the flights.
"The world is trying to respond, which is a good thing, and the systems and networks tend to work a little bit slower due to the traffic volume coming in," he said. United Nations spokesman Farhan Haq said the UN is releasing USD 15 million from its central emergency response fund to help victims.
But, he also acknowledged problems getting relief supplies into the country and the pressure on the airport. He said food trucks are on their way to affected regions outside the Kathmandu Valley, with distribution of the food expected to start Tuesday. Citing government figures, Haq said an estimated 8 million people have been affected by the quake, and more than 1.4 million need food assistance. The aid program is likely to be needed for an extended period of time.