As a devastating earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale struck Nepal and shook India, especially its northern and eastern parts, the Government of India and its various agencies swung into action to assist in the massive rescue and relief operations in the country as well as Nepal.
The Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, himself monitored the overall situation in the wake of the earthquake, and reached out to affected Indian states Rs such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal Rs and Nepal where hundreds of people were reported to be killed and thousands wounded amid largescale destruction of life and property.
The PM assured the neighbouring country of all assistance in dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake, asserting that "Nepal’s pain is our pain". He spoke to the Nepal President Mr Ram Baran Yadav and the Nepal PM Mr Sushil Koirala to assure them of all possible help.
Fifty two people were reported to have been killedand 237 injured in various parts of the country. Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, bordering Nepal, were the worst-hit. Bihar accounted for the highest number of deaths, 38.
During the day, Mr Modi spoke to the UP chief minister Mr Akhilesh Yadav, Bihar CM Mr Nitish Kumar, West Bengal CM Ms Mamata Banerjee, Sikkim CM Mr Pawan Kumar Chamling and Madhya Pradesh CM Mr Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The PM chaired a high-level meeting comprising top ministers and officials to take stock of the situation arising out of Nepal’s eathquake. It was attended by the Union home minister Mr Rajnath Singh, finance minister Mr Arun Jaitley, national security advisor Mr Ajit Doval, the PM’s principal secretary Mr Nripendra Misra, and top government officials including those from the Indian Meteorological Department and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).
Mr Modi directed immediate dispatch of relief and rescue teams, including medical teams, to affected Indian states as well as Nepal. He also asked for proper arrangements for ensuring evacuation of stranded tourists in Nepal.
The external affairs minister Ms Sushma Swaraj said such tourists should get in touch with the Indian embassy in Kathmandu for their evacuation.
A control room has been set up in the ministry of external affairs to provide all help and information round the clock. The numbers to this 24-hour control room are +91 11 2301 2113, +91 11 2301 4104 and +91 11 2301 7905, an official statement said. An email ID Rs "[email protected]" Rs has also been created for this purpose.
A plane carrying 3 tonnes of medical equipment and a team of 40 members of the NDRF flew out of Delhi to Kathmandu this afternoon, the foreign secretary Mr S Jaishankar said. More relief planes and rescue helicopters will take off for Nepal soon.
Mr Jaishankar said he did not have the figures of Indians travelling in Nepal.
He also informed that there is no electricity or mobile networks in quake-hit areas in Nepal. The minister of state for external affairs Mr V K Singh also expressed solidarity with Nepal, saying India will stand by it in this time of distress.
The Ambassador-designate of Nepal in New Delhi, Mr Deep Kumar Upadhyay said his country needs mobile medical assistant units from India besides other help. He thanked India for stepping in and offering help saying, We have been in touch with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Our President is in touch with them and they have offered to help us. I thank India on behalf of Nepal for assisting us. The Union ministry of home affairs has been in touch with all the affected states to assess the situation. The ministry said the earthquake, with epicenter 77 kms north-west of Kathmandu, made an impact on virtually all northern states in India Rs especially Bihar, UP, Sikkim and West Bengal Rs through tremors.
To assist the rescue and relief, 5 NDRF teams have been sent with one team each being sent to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh as well as to Darbhanga, Supaul, Motihari and Gopalganj in Bihar. Each team of the NDRF consists of 45 personnel including medical workers. The National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC),headed by the Cabinet Secretary Mr Ajit Seth, also held meetings to assess the situation through video-conferencing with the chief secretaries of affected states. The NCMC will be meeting regularly to review the situation and relief measures.
The home secretary, Mr L C Goyal, said an inter-governmental coordination cell has been set up under the Cabinet Secretariat, which will coordinate with all stake-holders engaged in rescue and relief operations in Nepal and India. Mr Goyal said the communication networks in the affected states were functioning properly. This will function on round-the-clock basis and its phone numbers are : 0112301 6633, 2379 2281. The 24/7 control rooms have also been set up both in the ministry of home affairs and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Their phone numbers are : 011- 2309 3564, 23093566 (MHA control room) and011-26701728, 26701729; 9868881801 (NDMA control room).