New Delhi: India on Monday 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 had 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 RK 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 receive 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.