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The end of a much-loved railway

The end of a much-loved railway

India reiterates need for political solution to Nepal’s crisis

New Delhi: With the political impasse in Nepal showing no signs of easing, India on Wednesday asked its neighbour to normalise the situation as soon as possible while asserting that it has always stood for a peaceful and prosperous Nepal which also is in India’s interest.

During her meeting with visiting Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told him that India has gone out of the way to ensure medical supplies to the Himalayan nation while rejecting any hindrance to supplies from the country.

Sushma Swaraj. AFPSushma Swaraj. AFP

Sushma Swaraj. AFP

On his part, Thapa briefed Swaraj on the political dialogue with various stakeholders and informed her that the ministerial level dialogue has been upgraded to the top leadership level in his country.

Swaraj “reiterates need for urgent political solution to political problems facing Nepal”, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

She also told Thapa “that there is no hindrance to supplies from India. But Nepal needs to normalise situation as soon as possible”, the Spokesperson added.

The minister also underlined the fact that India has gone out of the way to ensure medical supplies to Nepal during the talks.

The visiting dignitary told Swaraj that there has been focused discussions on four key issues concerning a section of Nepalese population i.e – constituency delimitation, political representation, citizenship and demarcation of provinces.

Thapa, who is visiting India for the second time in less than two months, hoped for an early resolution of the issues, official sources said. During his first visit in October within days of assuming office, Thapa had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Swaraj after which Indian officials had agreed to re-route the vehicles carrying essential supplies to Nepal from those border points which are less disturbed.

Since the promulgation of the Constitution in Nepal in September, the Indian-origin Madhesi population has been agitating as they believe the country’s new Constitution discriminates against them, denying them equal standing with other Nepalis.

The agitation obstructed supply of essential commodities including petrol thereby creating a crisis in Nepal, which accused India of imposing a “economic blockade”. India has denied the charge and has been asking that country to take steps which should ensure broad-based ownership and acceptance of the Constitution by all section of the society including those disaffected agitating forces.

Meanwhile, in Parliament, Swaraj said India would continue to maintain close engagement and bilateral exchanges, as well as extend all assistance in accordance with the aspirations of the people of Nepal, for peace, stability and socio-economic development of the country.

PTI

Nepal unrest leaves millions of children facing food, medicine shortages – U.N. | Reuters

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Unrest over Nepal’s new constitution has led to severe shortages of fuel, food, medicines and vaccines, putting more than three million children at risk of disease during the harsh winter months, the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said on Monday.

Nepal has been in turmoil since September when it adopted a new constitution, sparking protests by members of the ethnic Madhesi groups, who argue that the country’s charter does not reflect their interests.

Protesters have blockaded trucks from India, leading to acute shortages of fuel and medicine in the landlocked Himalayan nation of 28 million people.

UNICEF said child survivors of two major earthquakes in April and May could be worst hit by the shortages. The tremors killed nearly 9,000 people and damaged or destroyed nearly 900,000 houses. Many remain homeless.

Newborn babies are at particular risk, as fuel shortages mean fewer women can get to hospitals and health centres to give birth, UNICEF said.

“The plight that children and their families are facing in the country has been worsening by the day and will deteriorate further in the winter months,” UNICEF’s regional director for South Asia, Karin Hulshof, said in a statement.

“There is no time to lose,” she added.

The fuel shortage has led to an increase in the use of firewood in homes, which raises the risk of pneumonia. More than 800,000 Nepali children under five contracted the illness last year, and around 5,000 died, the agency said.

The government’s regional medical stores have already run out of BCG vaccines against tuberculosis, and stocks of other vaccines and antibiotics are critically low, UNICEF said.

“The risks of hypothermia and malnutrition, and the shortfall in life-saving medicines and vaccines, could be a potentially deadly combination for children this winter,” UNICEF’s executive director, Anthony Lake, said in a statement.

“During my recent visit to Nepal, I witnessed first-hand the precarious living conditions of many of the earthquake survivors,” he added.

“They could now be facing a new disaster – without adequate food, protection from the cold, or healthcare.”

(Reporting by Alex Whiting, Editing by Katie Nguyen; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)

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Climate change: India ready to be part of solution, says Prakash Javadekar

Javadekar said India expects an ‘equitable and just’ climate agreement in Paris and does not want the Paris summit to repeat the outcome of previous summits. He also said Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on ‘climate justice’ and sustainable lifestyle by developed countries to help combat the threat of climate change.
File Photo
dna Research & Archives
India has said it is ready to be a part of the solution for tackling climate change. Ahead of the crucial climate change summit in Paris, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar has emphasised on the need to look at the ‘polluter pays’ principle as one of the ways of tackling climate change. He said India would urge rich nations to deliver climate justice for developing countries at the United Nations Climate Change conference in Paris.Javadekar said India expects an ‘equitable and just’ climate agreement in Paris and does not want the Paris summit to repeat the outcome of previous summits. He also said Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed on ‘climate justice’ and sustainable lifestyle by developed countries to help combat the threat of climate change.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>For the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, the Paris conference aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. The Paris conference is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants, including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society. Javadekar said that vigorous cleanliness campaigns need to be conducted before cleanliness becomes a way of life for the country.In the last phase of the flag-in ceremony of ‘Swachh Bharat, Swachh Himalaya’ campaign, organised by the Border Security Force at a function here, Javadekar lauded the BSF for undertaking the campaign as part of its Golden Jubilee expedition.Also read- Paris climate conference to start a day early: United NationsThe Border Security Force completes 50 years of service to the nation on December 1. The BSF carried out a ‘Swachh Bharat Swachh Himalaya’ in Himalayan region from October 12 to November 25. The 45-day expedition was conducted in four phases, covering approximately 1500 km across three states.The aim of the campaign was to create awareness among the civil population and various other stakeholders on the need to ensure basic cleanliness in day-to-day life, besides various measures for ensuring cleanliness of Himalayas that encompass many glaciers, the Ganges and connected environmental issues of the Himalayan valleys and foothills.The last of the four phases, included a cycling expedition from Rishikesh to New Delhi, has been campaigning for a safer environment. The expedition also organised a series of free medical camps and interacted with groups of civil society to spread awareness about cleanliness in daily lives.Speaking on the occasion, Director General of the Border Security Force D K Pathak said that the sentinels of the borders are not only confined to the assigned duties, but are also the sentinels of the environment.

India condemns Nepal deputy PM Mainali’s remarks as ‘malicious’

The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu in a statement reiterated that “India’s only objective is peace, stability and prosperity in Nepal. India hopes that internal issues facing the country will be resolved through political dialogue and reconciliation. India will support all efforts in this regard.”

Madhesis, Indian-origin inhabitants of Nepal’s Terai region, are protesting division of their ancestral homeland in the new Constitution.
File Photo
PTI
India strongly condemned Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister’s allegations on Sunday that it is trying to disintegrate Nepal and annex the Terai region, saying such “baseless and malicious” comments vitiate the age-old historical and familial ties between the two countries.The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu in a statement reiterated that “India’s only objective is peace, stability and prosperity in Nepal. India hopes that internal issues facing the country will be resolved through political dialogue and reconciliation. India will support all efforts in this regard.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Condemning Deputy Prime Minister C P Mainali’s statement, it said, “The Embassy strongly condemns such baseless and malicious comments, which divert attention from the real issues facing the country and vitiate the age-old historical, familial and civilisational ties between India and Nepal.Veteran Communist leader Mainali during a media interaction here yesterday said that the blockade of key border trade points with India which is led by Indian-origin Madhesis was part of “Indian conspiracy to annex the Terai region by disintegrating it from the rest of the country” with the ‘one Madhes, one Pradesh’ (province) demand.Mainali, who is also the Minister of Women, Children and Social Welfare, claimed that India is executing a plan to disintegrate the Terai region through blockade. Madhesis, Indian-origin inhabitants of Nepal’s Terai region, are protesting division of their ancestral homeland in the new Constitution.The agitation close to the main trading point near Raxaul has halted supply of essential goods, causing acute shortage of fuel in Nepal. Over 40 people have died in the violent agitation that has also overwhelmed Indo-Nepal ties as transit of goods and fuel to the Himalayan nation from India via the major border trading points has been badly affected.

Nepal PM KP Oli hits out at India for raising human rights issue in Geneva

He said the current problem of blockade is the result of an “imported agenda carried by certain elements”.

Oli went on to say that Indian blockade and subsequent violence has revived nationalism among the Nepalese people.

Wikimedia Commons
Nepal’s new Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Friday said that the blockade of key border points with India is ‘more inhuman than a war’ as he criticised New Delhi for raking up alleged rights abuse in Nepal at the UNHRC. “Foodstuff and protection come into priority under the humanitarian aspect even during a war. Neighbouring country has further troubled our country by blocking checkpoints while it is still paralysed by the April 25 devastating earthquake. This is objectionable,” Oli told a delegation of the Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ).<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said the current problem of blockade is the result of an “imported agenda carried by certain elements”. “Nepal is currently at the receiving end of unofficial blockade. But this is the time for us to find alternative,” he was quoted as saying by local media. Oli also expressed dissatisfaction over India for targeting Nepal at the United Nations Human Rights Council over alleged human rights violation cases. “Neighbouring country is bullying us on one hand and raising issues of impunity on the other,” Oli said. “Our close neighbour has opened our eyes. I will render efforts to bail the country out of the existing crisis, maintaining our national independence, dignity and national integrity,” he added. Oli went on to say that the blockade and subsequent violence has revived nationalism among the Nepalese people.He said that the government will resolve the problems by holding talks with the agitating groups in Terai. “I am personally very sad and sensitive for the public bearing the brunt of crisis,” Oli said. On Wednesday, India called on Nepal at the UNHRC to consolidate Constitution building by accommodating “all sections” and emphasised that problems facing it cannot be resolved through force. In its statement at the second Universal Periodic Review of Nepal, India also urged the Himalayan nation to investigate and take credible measures to prevent recurrence of “incidents of violence, extra-judicial killings and ethnic discrimination in the country”.The development came amid a political crisis over the new Constitution opposed by Indian-origin Madhesis who have led an agitation and blockaded key border trade points of Nepal with India, bringing supplies of essential goods including fuel and cooking gas for over a month. Reeling under the pressure, Nepal has warmed up to China to open border trade points for the much-needed supplies ahead of the festive season.

Awards Wapasi: Noted historian Shekhar Pathak from Uttarakhand returns Padma Shri

A historian, writer and academician from Uttarakhand, Pathak was awarded the Padma Shri in 2007.

A historian, writer and academician from Uttarakhand, Pathak was awarded the Padma Shri in 2007. (mussooriewriters.com)

Noted historian from Uttarakhand Shekhar Pathak on Monday announced his decision to return Padma Shri in protest against what they call the “atmosphere of growing intolerance” in the country. He is the second eminent personality from Uttarakhand to return his award after noted writer Nayantara Sahgal. Announcing the decision at the ongoing 4th Nainital Film Festival which got underway in the tourist town today, Pathak said his move was in “protest against the atmosphere of growing intolernace in the country and the neglect of the Himalayan region”.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He said being the son of the Himalayas returning the award was also his way of registering his protest against the “loot” of its resources. A historian, writer and academician from Uttarakhand, Pathak was awarded the Padma Shri in 2007. Also known for his concern for the environment, he founded “People’s Association for Himalaya Area Research (PAHAR), a Nainital-based a non-profit organization for research on Himalayan people, established in 1983. He also edits an annual journal published by it.In 2007, he took up a three-year project to study the Himalayan people along with Magsaysay Award winner, Chandi Prasad Bhatt, traversing the Himalayas, from Leh to Arunachal.

Nepali police kill Indian protester at border blockade | Reuters

KATHMANDU Nepali police shot and killed an Indian citizen at a border checkpoint on Monday as they tried to clear protesters whose blockade has strangled Nepal’s fuel supplies and badly damaged relations between the neighbours.

Nepal has faced an acute fuel crisis for more than a month since protesters in the lowland south, angered that a new constitution fails to reflect their interests, prevented supply trucks from entering from India.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned the killing of an Indian youth and spoke with Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Oli to seek details about the incident.

Many in Nepal see India’s hand in the protests although it denies any role.

Modi said he had assured the Nepalese leader that there was “no obstacle” from India to the supply of fuel and other essentials to Nepal.

With the landlocked Himalayan nation of 28 million recovering from its worst earthquake on record, the government has turned to China for extra fuel. Officials said some Chinese oil was due to arrive in Kathmandu late on Monday.

Hundreds of stick-wielding protesters battled with police near the border crossing, known as the “friendship bridge”, in Birgunj district, television pictures showed.

Raju Babu Shrestha, district police superintendent, said protesters threw petrol bombs and stones at a police post prompting them to “fire in self defence”.

“One protester, an Indian national, who was attacking the police post with the petrol bomb was killed in the firing,” Shrestha said, adding that the man was killed a few hundred metres from the border crossing.

More than 20 people including 15 police officers were injured in the clash, he said.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said India was deeply concerned about the violence in which “an innocent Indian” was killed. He said Indian fuel-truck drivers were advised not to put themselves in danger.

Protests over a new constitution turned violent in August and more than 40 people have been killed as southern plains dwellers objected to seeing their lands divided and included in several federal states dominated by mountain communities.

The constitution was nonetheless adopted on Sept. 20, paving the way for the formation of a government headed by Prime Minister K.P. Oli, who has failed to calm passions that have paralysed economic and political life.

Earlier on Monday, police cleared protesters staging a sit-in on the bridge but a protest leader said they had re-occupied it and five people had been hurt.

The protesters had gone into Birgunj town where they were burning tyres. A protest leader, Purushottam Jha, from a political party that represents minority Madhesis, said police had used teargas in the town and fired into the air.

Police said 219 empty trucks had been cleared to return to India but that none had entered from India.

(Reporting by Ross Adkin and Gopal Sharma; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Nick Macfie and Robert Birsel)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Nepal signs deal with China for supplies as fuel crisis deepens | Reuters

KATHMANDU Nepal signed a deal on Wednesday with China to import petroleum products, its embassy in Beijing said, as the Himalayan nation tries to boost supplies to deal with a deepening fuel crisis.

Kathmandu has been forced to ration fuel after protests against a new constitution strangled supplies from India into the landlocked nation.

India has been critical of Nepal for rushing through the constitution despite opposition from minorities living close to its border. While the Himalayan nation accuses India of imposing a blockade to show its displeasure, New Delhi says its truck drivers are concerned for their safety.

The Nepalese embassy said in a statement a memorandum of understanding had been signed between Nepal Oil Corp and National United Oil Corp (PetroChina), without giving details of the deal.

Nepali and Chinese officials were not immediately available comments.

China will also supply 1,000 tonnes of fuel to Nepal as a grant, the statement said.

Nepal is almost totally dependent on India for overland supplies following earthquakes in the spring that killed nearly 9,000 people and blocked crossings from China.

But as relations with India turned sour, there has been growing speculation that Kathmandu might seek help from China, India’s rival in the Himalayas.

(Reporting by Ross Adkin; Writing by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Alison Williams)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Fuel crisis threatens Nepal’s forests

Nepal’s world-renowned community forests are threatened by a sudden rise in demand for firewood following a fuel crisis, officials say.

Madhesis to continue Nepal-India border blockade until demands met

Shukla told the negotiators of the three parties that previously the state had declared those who were killed during the protests as martyrs, but now the state was not following the precedent.

PTI
Nepal’s United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) on Wednesday told the negotiators of the Government that their blockade of entry points on Nepal-India border would continue until their demands were met.According to The Himalayan Times, UDMF negotiator Sarvendranath Shukla told the Nepali Congress, the CPN-UML and the Unified CPN-Maoist that they should come with a roadmap when they sit for talks again tomorrow.Shukla told the negotiators of the three parties that previously the state had declared those who were killed during the protests as martyrs, but now the state was not following the precedent.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He added that the government had decided to withdraw its decision of declaring some areas in the Tarai districts as riot hit or prohibited zones, but in practice those decisions had not been implemented.The Madhesis felt cheated since the three parties did not abide by the eight-point agreement and hence, they wanted boundary issues resolved soon, Shukla said.On Tuesday, the meeting between Nepal’s three major parties and UDMF had ended inconclusively as the latter demanded concrete agenda on various issues for talks.

All you need to know about PM Narendra Modi’s guru Swami Dayanand Giri

PM Modi had personally paid a visit to Rishikesh to enquire about his health on September 11.

Swami Dayanand Giri was a teacher at Rishikesh’s Dayanand Saraswati Ashram and Coimbatore’s Arsh Vidya Gurukulam. He had been teaching Vedanta and Sanskrit in India as well as abroad. He established All India Movement for Seva (public welfare) in 2000 and was awarded by the United Nations in 2005. PM Narendra Modi had been in touch with the 87-year-old guru since his RSS days. Swami Dayanand had personally congratulated PM Modi after he had proposed International Yoga Day in United Nations.The guru had been brought back to the ashram after 10 days of treatment at the Jollygrant Himalayan Hospital, where his condition had begun to decline steadily. He took his last breath on Wednesday night. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The spiritual guru had been ailing for a long time.

PM Modi’s spiritual guru Swami Dayanand passes away

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s spiritual guru Swami Dayanand Giri passed away on Wednesday at his ashram in Sheeshamjhadi area here after a prolonged illness. He was 87.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s spiritual guru Swami Dayanand Giri passed away on Wednesday at his ashram in Sheeshamjhadi area here after a prolonged illness. He was 87.Swami Dayanand breathed his last late on Wednesday night, said his close aide and trustee of Dayanand Ashram, Shantatmanand Saraswati.He had been brought back to the ashram after 10 days of treatment at the Jollygrant Himalayan Hospital, where his condition had begun to decline steadily, he said.The spiritual guru had been ailing for a long time.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On September 11, Prime Minister Modi had paid a visit to Swami Dayanand at his ashram to enquire after his health.Modi condoled the demise of his guru saying it is a personal loss. “Swami Dayananda Saraswati ji’s demise is a personal loss. I pray that his soul attains eternal Peace.” Modi tweeted.passes away, sedition charge against aide”My thoughts are with the countless people inspired by Dayananda Saraswati ji. He was a powerhouse of knowledge, spirituality and service,” he added.

Stuck in Bilaspur tunnel for over a week: Two workers still stuck as snag hits rescue ops

Bilaspur (Himachal Pradesh): Rescuers were on Sunday close to evacuating two workers struck in a collapsed tunnel for over 180 hours in Himachal Pradesh but a technical snag hampered the relief work, officials said.

A snag in the drilling machine hampered the evacuation throughout the day. The evacuation was likely to be completed on Monday, officials said.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

“We are awaiting the completion of the shaft. Once it’s done, our men will reach the spot 42 metres beneath the ground to rescue the workers,” Jaideep Singh, commanding officer of the National Disaster Response Force, told IANS.

He said a 42-metre deep vertical shaft had been dug.

“Just one metre of digging is left. Once it’s over, we will be in a position to reach the tunnel roof,” he said.

“Now we are hoping to evacuate the two workers and to trace the third one either later in the evening (Sunday) or tomorrow (Monday),” a beaming Singh said.

An official involved in the digging operation said making a passage through the well-designed reinforced concrete structure, that too with a web of 32 mm rods, would be a Herculean task.

He said no drilling has been carried out since Saturday night as the machine has developed a major snag.

“We are on the job to rectify the fault in the machine. The ingress of groundwater in the dug up portion is also posing a challenge. We are using pumps to flush out water,” he added.

Bilaspur Deputy Commissioner Manasi Sahay Thakur said they were in regular touch with the two trapped workers — Mani Ram and Satish Tomar — through a microphone linked with a webcam.

However, the whereabouts of the third worker, Hirdya Ram, are not known.

Of the 1.2-km proposed tunnel of the Kiratpur-Manali expressway road project, 275 metres was excavated when disaster struck on September 12, an official source said.

The contract for tunnel laying, involving an outlay of Rs.82 crore, has been assigned to the Chandigarh-based Himalayan Construction Co, three of whose workers, belonging to the hill state, were trapped.

IANS

Rajnath Singh to visit forward areas on along Pakistan, China borders this week

New Delhi: Home Minister Rajnath Singh will next week visit forward areas along the borders with Pakistan and China, including Chumar in eastern Ladakh which saw a fortnight-long stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops a year ago.

During his three-day visit to forward areas of Jammu and Kashmir beginning Tuesday, Singh will inaugurate a new officers’ mess at the camp of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) force in Samba and may also go to posts in the sector which has often witnessed firing from across the border.

Rajnath Singh. ReutersRajnath Singh. Reuters

Rajnath Singh. Reuters

Singh will then visit border posts in Chumar in eastern Ladakh where Indian and Chinese troops had eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation in sub-zero temperatures in September 2014. It will be followed by a visit to the police memorial in Hot Spring and ITBP posts in Thakung and Chushul.

Following a flag meeting at Spanggur Gap, both the forces had decided to de-escalate the standoff by pulling back troops in the Himalayan plateau after a fortnight last year.

The Home Minister will review the situation along the Sino-Indian border and interact with troops of ITBP, which guards the border.

He is also expected to chair a meeting with local administration and Border Roads Organisation about the development activities being carried out in the forward areas.

PTI

Britons killed as India train derails

At least two British tourists are killed and at least five people are injured after a chartered train derails in northern India, officials say.

India, Nepal to ink deal tomorrow to construct petroleum pipeline

India and Nepal are set to sign an MoU on Sunday for the construction of a 41-km-long petroleum pipeline to import petroleum products from India, a key agreement that will ensure unhindered supply of oil and gas to the land-locked Himalayan nation.

Narendra Modi and Sushil Koirala

PTI photo
India and Nepal are set to sign an MoU on Sunday for the construction of a 41-km-long petroleum pipeline to import petroleum products from India, a key agreement that will ensure unhindered supply of oil and gas to the land-locked Himalayan nation.Nepalese Minister for Commerce and Supplies Sunil Thapa and India’s Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan will sign the Memorandum of Understanding at the Ministry of Commerce in Singhdurabar here.The pipeline from Raxaul in Bihar to Amlekhgunj in Nepal is estimated to cost Rs 275 crore and is expected to be completed in three years.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Of the 41 kilometer-long petroleum pipeline, about 39 km would lie in Nepal.Indian Oil Corporation will provide Rs 200 crore while the remaining Rs 75 crore will be provided by Nepal Oil Corporation, according to officials. IOC has now agreed to foot the cost in exchange for Nepal committing to buy products for at least 15 years.The MoU will promote bilateral cooperation in the oil and gas sector and secure long term supply of petroleum products to Nepal. It will facilitate smooth supply of petroleum product from between the two countries.The project will also preserve the environment along the route and decongest the international border at Raxaul, a statement said.The project will be completed in two phases. In the first phase, a petroleum products pipeline from Raxaul to Amlekhgunj would be constructed. IOC will bear the cost for the first phase of the project.Nepal had requested India during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to country on August 3-4 last year for the construction of this petroleum products pipeline. There will be a long term contract of 15 years (initial contract for five years extendable for two terms of five years each) between IOC and the Nepal Oil Corporation, the statement said.Petroleum products are one of the major items being imported by Nepal from India. Pradhan arrived in Nepal yesterday for signing the agreement.

Thirty-five lakh people vulnerable in quake prone Uttarakhand: House panel report

The Ministry of Earth Sciences informed the committee that the Himalayan region is seismically active and large earthquakes in the unbroken segments along the Himlayan belt cannot be ruled out.

Like Nepal, the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand is highly prone to a potentially devastating earthquake and will expose a population of 30 to 35 lakh to such a calamity, a parliamentary panel report on science, technology and environment and forests has said. Following the Nepal earthquake and studies by geologists from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advance Scientific Research, Bengaluru, indicating a deadly earthquake in Uttarakhand, the panel decided to examine the state’s preparedness of various agencies.The Ministry of Earth Sciences informed the committee that the Himalayan region is seismically active and large earthquakes in the unbroken segments along the Himlayan belt cannot be ruled out.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The parliamentary panel enquired with Uttarakhand state government as to how many people are likely to be affected if an earthquake of magnitude 8 strikes the state. The state government said that five districts of the state fall in the seismic zone-V and were very sparsely-populated. The population ranged from 5 lakhs to 7 lakhs per district and a population of about 35 lakhs was likely to be affected. The committee was informed that there was a need to relocate 400 villages from the vulnerable high-threat regions to safer places. In this regard, Rs10,000 crore have been sought.Taking note of the large population at risk, the committee asked the Centre and state government to expedite the matter at the earliest. The committee also recommended establishing an institutional mechanism for better planning, forecasting and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for dealing with the catastrophe of earthquake that is being predicted in Uttarakhand.The Ministry also said that studies have shown low-level local seismicity in National Capital Region, though, the region is more vulnerable to shaking from large earthquakes in Himalayan region. Pilot projectA total of 100 sensors will be installed in Uttarakhand which will be connected with central recording station which is being established at IIT, Roorkee. These sensors will detect the ground motion radiating from an earthquake rupture and estimate the resulting ground shaking that will occur later either at the same location or some other locations. The sensors will provide New Delhi a lead time of 60-90 seconds in case a major quake occurs in Himalayas.

Nepal’s Maoist supremo Prachanda to visit India

Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as ‘Prachanda’, will visit India from July 14 to 18 at the invitation from the government of India, party sources told PTI.

Nepal’s Maoist chief Prachanda is set to visit India next week at the invitation of the Indian government as the Himalayan nation moves closer to finalising a Constitution that could end years of political bickering.Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as ‘Prachanda’, will visit India from July 14 to 18 at the invitation from the government of India, party sources told PTI. However, the details of the visit and his programme in India are yet to be made public.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The 60-year-old Maoist supremo’s visit to Indian comes at a time when the country is about to finalise a new Constitution after years of political bickering and deadlock over contentious issues. Prachanda’s visit also assumes significance with his stance towards India softening in recent years. He had earlier frequently engaged in bitter attacks on India and accused New Delhi of interfering in Nepal’s affairs and “dictating” to its leadership.Four major political parties — Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN-Maoist and Madhesi Peoples Forum Democratic — that command 90 per cent majority in the 601-member Constituent Assembly have reached a 16-point deal to settle contentious issues of Constitution-drafting.The first draft of the Constitution was presented at the Constituent Assembly last week and discussions over it are ongoing.The draft Constitution will then be published in the Nepal Gazette which will be discussed by the people before its promulgation. However, some Madhesi parties and fringe parties are opposing the process, saying the proposed Constitution has failed to address their issues.On Friday, top leaders of Madhesi parties met Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae and discussed various issues, including Constitution-drafting. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who was here last month for the international donors conference, had met the entire spectrum of Nepalese leadership, including Prachanda.She had encouraged the leaders to finalise the long- pending drafting of the Constitution at the earliest to take the country on a new path of development.

First batch of 5,100 pilgrims flagged off for Amarnath yatra

Jammu: The first batch comprising of 5,100 Amarnath yatris was on Sunday flagged off by the state minister for health Choudhary Lal Singh from the Lakhanpur base camp.

“The first batch comprising of 5,100 Amarnath pilgrims was today flagged off by the minister for health Choudhary Lal Singh from Lakhanpur base camp- the gateway of Jammu and Kashmir- for onward journey to the Himalayan cave shrine in South Kashmir District of Anantnag,” an official spokesman said.

Amarnath Yatra pilgrims. PTI

Amarnath Yatra pilgrims. PTI

The pilgrims left Lakhanpur at 10 am, while many of them registered themselves for the annual pilgrimage on spot for which the government has put up a special counter.

District Development Commissioner Kathua Ajay Singh Jamwal, besides other senior officers of civil and police were present at the flagging off ceremony.

Earlier, interacting with the pilgrims, Lal Singh said that government has made adequate arrangements for smooth conduct of the yatra from Lakhanpur to cave shrine.

“Entire state administration is fully geared up to provide every facility like, drinking water, medicare, electricity and security to the yatris at base camps,” he said.

Praying for a smooth and safe yatra, the Minister said the pilgrims have to brave tough and inclement weather conditions during the yatra.

He made an appeal to people to undertake the yatra only after proper medical checkup and registration.

He said this year, the Health and Medical Education Department has set up medical aid camps at a distance of every 10 km from Lakhanpur to cave shrine.

First batch of pilgrims, which left Lakhanpur amid chanting of religious slogans, hymns and prayers, included males, females and children on a fleet of 27 buses and 21 Light Motor Vehicles (LMVs).

Later, the Minister also inspected the registration counter, medical aid camps and control room established at toll plaza Lakhanpur. All the vehicles enroute the shrine of Amarnath would be registered in Jammu and issued with receipts and pilgrimage stickers.

Meanwhile, an official of the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board said that till 29 June a total of 2,04,508 pilgrims had secured Advance Registration and 22,104 had purchased helicopter tickets from Baltal and Pahalgam to Panjtarni.

PTI

All for good relations: China opens Nathu La pass as 2nd route for Kailash pilgrims as promised during Modi’s visit

Naiduila (China): China on Monday opened the second land crossing in Tibet via Nathu La to allow the first batch of Indian pilgrims undertaking the arduous Kailash- Manasarovar Yatra, in the latest confidence-building measure between the two neighbours. The opening of the second route through the Himalayan pass of Nathu La in Sikkim, 4,000 metres above sea level, was officially announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s visit to China last month and will allow more Indians to undertake the pilgrimage.

The new route is in addition to the existing Lipulekh Pass, the only route that was badly damaged in the floods in Uttarakhand in 2013. A total of 44 pilgrims crossed over from the Indian side of the border in Sikkim today as the first batch of the annual Yatra through this border route and were warmly welcomed by Chinese officials in Tibet. The pilgrims belonging to different age-groups and hailing from various parts of India made their way to the Nathu La pass after a two week-long journey acclimatising themselves for the high-altitude journey to Kailash which stands at an altitude of about 6,500 metres in Tibet.

The pilgrims, who form the first batch of 250 people permitted to crossover to China this year to take part in the Yatra regarded as the most important pilgrimage for Hindus, appeared excited and cheerful. “It is a lifetime opportunity for me to visit the Kailash-Manasarovar. There is nothing more in life I look for,” Bharat Das, one of the pilgrims, told PTI.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The pilgrims, several of whom were middle-aged and retired, said they have been looking for this kind of an opportunity since long. They said it was good fortune to undertake the Yatra through a comfortable route and went on to thank the Chinese authorities for facilitating the new route. The route through Nathu La Pass will facilitate comfortable travel for Indian pilgrims by buses, especially for elderly Indian citizens, though conditions in the Himalayan region with less oxygen levels still pose a challenge.

Yesterday, Chinese Ambassador to India Le Yucheng arrived here from the the Indian side, becoming the first Chinese official to cross the border through the new route. Le, along with Councillor in the Indian Embassy Beijing Shrila Dutta Kumar and top Chinese officials of Tibet, welcomed the pilgrims as they crossed over. Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised opening the new route for the Yatra to Modi during the former’s maiden visit to New Delhi in September last year.

Modi wanted the second route for the Yatra, keeping in view the terrain difficulties through the existing routes through Uttarakhand and Nepal which involve arduous journey, including heavy trekking and travel on the backs of mules.

The Nathu La route will enable pilgrims to travel the 1,500 km-long route from Nathu La to Kailash by buses. Welcoming the pilgrims, Le said the Chinese side, especially the provincial government of the Tibet Autonomous Region has done a lot of preparations to open the new route by building new hotels, improving roads, training translators, tour guides and preparation of Indian food. He said this route is more comfortable and safer than the old one.

“Instead of travelling through rough terrain facing high risks, you can reach the sacred place in bus while enjoying the heavenly beauty along the way,” he said. “I am sure the Indian friends can feel the warm hospitality and profound friendship of Chinese people,” he said, adding that the Indian pilgrims will not only will gain spiritual strength but also develop better understanding of China.

Over 80,000 Indian pilgrims visited Kailash in the last decade braving the hardships, he said. “We, on the Chinese side, understand very well how Kailash-Manasarovar features in the Indian minds and will do whatever we can to make the yatra pleasant and a memorable one,” Le said. The External Affairs Ministry that organises the Yatra permits over 1,000 pilgrims a year in 18 batches for the Yatra. The entire trip is of 23 days, of which 19 days are meant for travelling while the for medical check-ups. It costs around Rs 1.80 lac for each pilgrim.

The first batch is led by Tarun Vijay, the BJP Rajya Sabha MP who has written a book on the importance of Kailash-Manasarovar. He said: “It is not only pilgrimage but also the pilgrimage of friendship between India and China” and opens a new era of relations between the two countries. Terming the new route as a historic move and a milestone in India-China relations, Indian Ambassador to China Ashok K Kantha, whose speech was read out by Kumar, expressed gratitude to China for allowing the second pass.

“The new pilgrimage route is another enduring symbol of the rich and growing people-to-people bonds between India and China. Relations between India and China are on a continuous growth path,” he said. Despite the short time lag in landmark meetings between Xi and Modi, “our two countries signed as many as 50 agreements during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to China, including government-to-government understandings and business deals,” he said.

“Today, the relationship between the world’s two largest developing countries and fastest-growing economies embraces multiple spheres of interaction such as economic, cultural, defence, space and other areas. “The age-old spiritual connect is an essential component of contemporary mutual understanding,” he said, adding that “a diverse and dynamic people-to-people engagement is central to this effort, and the opening of the route through Nathu La is a further milestone”.

“A diverse and dynamic people-to-people engagement is central to this effort, and the opening of the route through Nathu La is a further milestone. “It cements the strong civilisational linkages forged over centuries that provide the fountainhead of our shared cultural space, Kantha said. “We appreciate the hard work of the Chinese side to ensure all facilities for the comfort of the pilgrims, he added.

The Yadong county in Tibet where Nathu La pass was located on Chinese side is decorated with banners to welcome the pilgrims. The Yatra has been organised by the External Affairs Ministry since 1981 through Lipu Pass in Himalayas connecting the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand in India with the old trading town of Taklakot in Tibet. A total of 1,330 Yatris will be able to undertake the Yatra this year, which includes 250 Yatris via Nathula in 5 batches of 50 each. 1,080 Yatris will go via Lipulekh in 18 batches of 60 each.

PTI

Is Myanmar raid Indian counter-insurgency shift?

India’s attack on rebels inside Myanmar may be the beginning of a new phase in the country’s counter-insurgency strategy, writes analyst Subir Bhaumik.

Nepal parties resolve disputes over constitution after quake | Reuters

KATHMANDU Feuding political parties said on Monday they had agreed to split Nepal into eight federal provinces, ending years of stalemate over the new constitution intended to stabilise the country after civil war and the abolition of its monarchy.

The agreement came a month after deadly earthquakes shattered Nepal and analysts said politicians may have shown greater urgency to overcome the impasse following criticism of their response to the disaster.

Nepal has missed several deadlines to write a first post-monarchy constitution for the impoverished Himalayan nation of 28 million people.

At the heart of the dispute was a disagreement over the number of provinces, their internal boundaries and names based on ethnicity – as demanded by the country’s Maoists, who waged a 10-year insurgency against the state until 2006.

“The government will set up a federal commission to fix internal boundaries of the states,” four major political parties including the Maoists said in a statement.

The names of the states would be decided by a two-third majority of their respective assemblies, which would be elected after the constitution is prepared, they said.

But dozens of small parties rejected the deal saying boundaries and names of the states were too important to be left undecided. “This is a blow to federalism,” said Hridayesh Tripathi, of the Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party,

The new constitution was a condition of the peace deal with the Maoists, after a conflict that killed more than 17,000 people. The 239-year-old monarchy was abolished two years after the civil war ended.

Some analysts say the earthquake and its aftermath have led politicians, seen as selfish and out of touch with the plight of Nepal’s poor, to show a greater sense of common purpose.

“Any more haggling over the constitution would further alienate politicians from the people who have lost everything in the earthquake,” said Prakash Acharya, an editor with the Himalayan Times daily.

Two earthquakes on April 25 and May 12 killed at least 8,773 people and destroyed more than 500,000 homes, forcing millions of people to live without proper roof as the annual monsoon rains are due to begin next week

Party officials said the agreement would be presented to a special Constituent Assembly which will include the agreed provisions in the draft of the new charter set to be promulgated by next month.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala will resign after the new constitution comes into effect in July and the centre-left UML party, second biggest group in the ruling coalition, is expected to take power as agreed with Koirala last year.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Dominic Evans)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

‘Living dangerously’ in polluted Delhi

On World Environment Day, the BBC’s Vikas Pandey writes about the experience of living in a highly polluted city like Delhi.

Virtual reality film aims to raise funds by giving Nepal quake experience | Reuters

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A virtual reality film aims to help raise funds for survivors of last month’s earthquake in Nepal by giving viewers a first-hand experience of the disaster’s aftermath, the director said on Friday.

Los Angeles-based company RYOT – which produces news stories for audiences to act on – shot the footage in the days following the 7.8 magnitude quake which struck the impoverished nation on April 25, killing more than 8,000 people.

“As film-makers, we always try to have people understand the magnitude of a disaster but it’s difficult in traditional video,” said David Darg, RYOT’s director and co-founder who travelled to Nepal in the quake’s aftermath.

“This is the first time that Virtual Reality technology has been harnessed after an earthquake to give a fully immersive experience and help connect potential donors to the need in the most direct way available.”

The four minute film, which is narrated by Hollywood actress Susan Sarandon, attempts to transport people to the Himalayan nation to be fully immersed amongst the destruction and understand the plight of survivors.

When seen in this medium, viewers will feel like they are standing in the rubble and living through the experiences of the survivors who have lost their families, homes and livelihoods.

Aid agencies say the international community’s response to the disaster has slowed in recent weeks, even though at least two million people are in need of food, water, shelter and proper sanitation facilities.

The United Nations has appealed for $423 million, but as of Friday, the U.N. Financial Tracking showed $113 million had been raised, 27 percent of the required funds.

Darg, who has filmed other humanitarian crises such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the cholera outbreak in Haiti said traditional methods of collecting funds were still effective, but that it was important to find new ways of attracting larger audiences to engage and donate.  

“For instance, after the Ebola outbreak, the aid community was shocked at the relatively low response from private donors in proportion to the amount of media coverage given to the outbreak,” said Darg.

“By pioneering new ways to convey the very real messages of urgency and need, we can reinforce donor response and encourage a new demographic of donors and advocates to engage.”

Darg said funds raised would go through the RYOT Foundation to U.S. charity Operation Blessing to purchase items such as food, water, blankets and shelter for victims in Sindhupalchowk, one of the worst-hit districts.

The Nepal Quake Project was launched on Thursday, but was debuted at the MountainFilm Festival last weekend.

“Attendees were fully invested in the experience and had immediate and visceral reactions,” said Darg.

“People who have viewed the Nepal piece said that they experienced extreme empathy — and even made eye-to-eye connections with people in the film and were extremely moved.”

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla; Editing by Ros Russell)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Tibetan father of four sets himself alight in China: reports

A Tibetan father-of-four set himself on fire in protest at China’s rule over the Himalayan region, overseas media and rights groups said, adding it was unclear whether he survived.

File Photo of Tibetans protest

AFP
A Tibetan father-of-four set himself on fire in protest at China’s rule over the Himalayan region, overseas media and rights groups said, adding it was unclear whether he survived.Tenzin Gyatso attempted to self-immolate after being “upset” by tightened security ahead of the 80th birthday of exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, sources told Radio Free Asia, which is backed by the US government. The 35-year-old staged his fiery protest on Wednesday in Daofu, in a Tibetan-majority area of the southwestern Chinese province of Sichuan, RFA said. “While he was burning, security personnel stationed in the area rushed to put out the fire and took him away,” a source named Tawu Tenzin told the media outlet. “It is hard to know now whether he has died or is still alive.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>He has the same name as the Dalai Lama, who is denounced as a separatist by Beijing and whose birthday is on July 6. Two years ago police opened fire on Tibetans marking his birthday in Daofu, shooting at least one monk in the head and seriously wounding several other people, two overseas groups said. The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said that Tenzin Gyatso set fire to himself outside a government building where “political education” was taking place. “It is believed that the tight security and oppressive atmosphere in the… area in the last few days triggered Tenzin Gyatso’s self-immolation protest,” the group on Friday cited a Tibetan in contact with local sources as saying.Police in Ganzi prefecture, which includes Daofu, told AFP they were not aware of the reported self-immolation attempt. There have been 140 such acts in Tibet and elsewhere since 2009, most of them fatal, both the ICT and RFA said. They peaked in the run-up to the ruling Communist Party’s pivotal five-yearly congress in November 2012, and have been less common in recent months.Many Tibetans accuse the government of religious repression and eroding their culture, as China’s majority Han ethnic group increasingly moves into historically Tibetan areas. Beijing condemns the acts and blames them on exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, saying he uses them to further a separatist agenda.The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace laureate who has lived in India since 1959 after a failed uprising in Tibet, has described the burnings as acts of desperation that he is powerless to stop.

Wreckage of missing U.S. helicopter found in Nepal; no survivors | Reuters

KATHMANDU The wreckage of a U.S. military helicopter lost on an earthquake relief mission in Nepal was found on Friday high on a mountainside, with all eight on board presumed dead, U.S. officials said.

A U.S. search team identified the wreckage as that of the missing Marines UH-1Y Huey helicopter deployed after the Himalayan state was hit by a massive earthquake last month that killed more than 8,000 people.

Crash debris was found 8 miles (13 km) north of the town of Charikot near dense forest and rugged terrain

“It was a very severe crash. We believe there were no survivors,” said John Wissler, lieutenant general of the U.S. Marines.

The Huey went missing while it was distributing aid on Tuesday, the day a strong aftershock hit Nepal and killed more than 100 people.

Six Marines and two Nepali soldiers were on board when it went missing, after the crew was heard over the radio saying the aircraft was experiencing a fuel problem.

The Huey, an iconic helicopter dating back to the Vietnam War era, was completely destroyed, Nepal’s top defence ministry official said.

“As the helicopter has broken into pieces and totally crashed there is no chance of any survivors,” Nepal’s defence secretary Ishwori Prasad Paudyal said earlier on Friday.

HUNDREDS INVOLVED IN SEARCH

After a three-day search the Huey was spotted near the village of Ghorthali at an altitude of 11,200 ft (3,400 m), an army general told Reuters earlier, as helicopters and Nepali ground troops converged on the crash site.

“It was found on a steep slope,” Major General Binoj Basnet said. U.S. and Nepali teams investigated the site on Friday in an attempt to determine the cause of the crash.

On Saturday, U.S. and Nepalese aircraft plan to get their rescue team back up to the site to collect the bodies and begin identification of the charred remains.

The area’s tallest peak soars to more than 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). Hillsides are cloaked with lush forest that made it hard to find the chopper even though it came down just a few miles from Charikot, the capital of Dolakha district that lies half a day’s drive to the east of Kathmandu.

An army base in the town has been serving as a hub for operations to airlift and treat those injured in the two earthquakes, and Prime Minister Sushil Koirala flew in on Thursday for an on-the-spot briefing.

The first quake, which struck on April 25 with a magnitude of 7.8, has killed 8,199 people. The death toll from a 7.3 aftershock on Tuesday has reached 117, with many victims in Dolakha.

The combined toll is approaching the number of just over 8,500 who died in an earthquake in 1934, the worst natural disaster on record to hit Nepal.

Some 76,000 more have been injured, while hundreds of thousands of buildings, including ancient temples and monuments, have been damaged or destroyed. Nearly three weeks after the first quake, aftershocks continue to rattle the country.

Nepal mobilised 600 soldiers to search for the missing Huey.

Two more U.S. Hueys, two MV-22B Osprey tilt-rotor planes and Nepali and Indian choppers had been involved in the search for the helicopter, which was part of a joint task force sent in by the United States to provide assistance at Nepal’s request.

U.S. officials said the crash would not affect ongoing relief operations.

“We will continue to stand by Nepal as long as they need our help,” Wissler told reporters.

(Additional reporting by Ross Adkin in KATHMANDU and Krista Mahr and Rupam Jain Nair in NEW DELHI; Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Alex Richardson)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Modi in China: Nathu La pass now operational for Kailash-Manasarova Yatra

Beijing: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his first visit to China, today announced in Beijing that the second route for the Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra will become operational in June, allowing more Indians to undertake the pilgrimage.

“The Nathu La route for Indian pilgrims to visit Kailash Mansarovar will become operational in June. I want to thank China for that,” the Prime Minister said in his address here after 24 agreements were signed between India and China.

Nathu La pass now operational for Manasarovar yatra, announces Modi.

Nathu La pass now operational for Manasarovar yatra, announces Modi.

The second route through the Himalayan pass of Nathu La, 4,000 metres above sea level, will allow more Indians to undertake the pilgrimage, in addition to the existing Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand.

The only route – Lipulekh Pass – was badly damaged in the floods in Uttarakhand in 2013.

The route through Nathu La Pass will facilitate comfortable travel for Indian pilgrims by buses, especially for elderly Indian citizens, though conditions in the Himalayan region with less oxygen levels still pose a challenge.

The Ministry of External Affairs currently takes more than 1,000 pilgrims a year in 18 batches involving a 22-day journey and officials expect that the number of pilgrims could rise considerably once the new route is opened.

Modalities for opening the second route for the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra in Tibet via Sikkim by June were finalised on February 1 when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was visiting China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised opening the new route for the Yatra to Modi during the former’s maiden visit to New Delhi in September 2014 and the two sides had agreed to work closely to ensure smooth commencement of the pilgrimage through the new route.

Modi made a strong pitch for the second route during his first meeting with Xi on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brazil.

PTI

Live: Fresh earthquake of magnitude 7.4 hits Nepal, tremors felt across north India

May 12, 2015

Highlights

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An earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale hit Nepal and many parts of North India with the impact being felt up in Delhi, West Bengal, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and other parts of north India.

The epicentre has been located on the Nepal-China border, 83 km east of Kathmandu.

The USGS has also reported about another quake with its epicentre in Afghanistan measuring 4.7 on the Richter scale.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The Delhi Secretariat was immediately evacuated after the tremors felt in the national capital.

On 25 April, a massive 7.9 magnitude had hit Nepal and many parts of North India with the Himalayan Kingdom suffering huge loss of life and property. The earthquake killed over 7,000 people in Nepal.

The number of houses destroyed in Nepal due to the 25 April earthquake was over 1,60,000, nearly twice the number of households wrecked in the 1934’s deadly temblor that has been the country’s worst disaster of all times.

After the quake, India had launched a massive rescue mission armed with modern equipment, dumpers and earth removers and aided by sniffer dogs, disaster relief workers were trying to locate possible survivors against fading hopes.

The quake that flattened homes and buildings and the subsequent powerful aftershocks had forced people out to live in the open under plastic tents, barely shielding them from cold and rains that have pounded the city.

Fuel and medicines were also in short supply. The picture was the same in suburbs of Kathmandu and in other rural areas.

In worst-affected districts like Gorkha and Sindhupalchowk, the damage was even more extensive, with up to 90 percent of houses destroyed, according to a situation report released by the United Nation’s humanitarian agency OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).

Among the affected districts, Sindhupalchowk has reported the maximum casualties with over 2,000 deaths, and several hundreds have died in Gorkha, where the epicentre of the deadly quake lay that fateful day.

The report has also estimated $415 million as needed for vital humanitarian relief in the quake-ravaged country. According to the report, the number of houses wrecked in the earthquake 81 years ago stood at 80,893.

The 1934 Great Nepal-Bihar Earthquake, with its epicentre about 9.5 km south of Mt Everest, had killed several thousands people on both sides of the Himalayas and practically flattened Kathmandu Valley besides levelling several districts in Bihar like Munger, Muzaffarpur and Darbhanga, destroying houses and grand palaces.

The 25 April quake had in many ways become an eerie reminder to the 1934 quake, which too has robbed the culturally-rich country of its architectural jewels, including the iconic Ghantaghar (clock tower). The Dharhara tower, a veritable landmark of the city was destroyed in 1934 as well, but was rebuilt later, only to meet a more cruel fate this time.

(With inputs from PTI)

When Nepal shook, Indian detectors remained duds

Believe it or not! The 293 strong-motion accelerographs (SMAs), set up by India along its Himalayan region to record the pattern of plate tectonic movements that can then be correlated to an earthquake, did not register the Nepal tremors because they had been abandoned for want of funds in August last year. The SMAs, which record strong ground motions, did not show any kind of seismic reading on April 25 when the 7.8-magnitude quake struck the Himalayan region, officials told dna. The ministry of earth sciences and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Roorkee had installed the SMAs in seismic zones 3, 4 and 5 along the Himalayan belt from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh under the Programme for Excellence in Strong Motion Studies.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> However, in a shocking case of apathy or criminal negligence, the devices that were looked after by IIT Roorkee for just Rs 90 lakh a year failed to work precisely when they most needed to because the ministry had stopped funding the project. IIT Roorkee had been maintaining these devices till August last year as it had done so for the last 10 years. “These devices were installed in 2005 at the cost of Rs 8 crore. Networked by the National Informatics Centre (NIC), they were constantly monitored at the base station at IIT Roorkee,” said Dr Ashok Kumar, of the department of earthquake engineering at IIT. Kumar was the project coordinator for the project. “Our teams visited these sites at least ones every year to change the batteries. If technical issues could not get resolved from the base station, the field staff would conduct a site visit,” said Prof ML Sharma, head of the department. But the routine maintenance work stopped as the funds dried up. The nodal station at IIT Roorkee also had BSNL telephone lines connecting these stations to the base. These lines would give real-time data to the base centre. However, since there were no funds to pay the BSNL bills, these lines too had to be disconnected in September last year. IIT Roorkee took up the issue through various letters to the ministry, the last one just three months ago in February, asking it to either take over SMA operations or release funds. However, before the ministry could react, the Nepal earthquake shook the department. Now, in what can only be termed a belated response, with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) asking for a daily update on these SMAs, the ministry’s seismology department has started taking back these devices from IIT Roorkee. The team from the ministry is visiting these sites on a day-to-day basis. So far, the ministry has managed to take over 54 such units. “These devices are placed at remote locations and it takes a lot of time to approach each station,” informed a scientist from the seismology department. All 54 units were lying unused and failed to give anyreading. The ministry also has about 90 such units of its own placed in different areas across the country. “We do not have adequate manpower to maintain our existing units. Now we have 300 more such devices to look after,” added the scientist. The seismology department of the ministry is currently in a transition phase. The ministry is of the view that these devices be taken over by the National Centre for Seismology (NCS). The NCS does not have the desired infrastructure and skilled manpower to take care of the devices. NCS is still in the pipeline and several posts are lying vacant. “… An independent seismic department is being set up which will cater to all seismic related issues. It will take at least two more years for things to get streamlined,” informed a senior official. As India takes stock of its disaster preparedness in the wake of the Nepal temblor and the buzz intensifies on the technical knowhow available to it, perhaps the simple question of funding should first be addressed.

About 100 bodies found in Nepal trekking village | Reuters

KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Nepali police and local volunteers found the bodies of about 100 trekkers and villagers buried in an avalanche set off by last month’s devastating earthquake and were digging through snow and ice for signs of dozens more missing, officials said on Monday.

The government began asking foreign teams to wrap up search and rescue operations, as hope of finding people alive in the rubble receded.

“They can leave. If they are also specialists in clearing the rubble, they can stay,” Rameshwor Dangal, an official at Nepal’s home ministry, told Reuters on Monday.

The trekkers’ bodies were recovered on Saturday and Sunday at the Langtang village, 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of Kathmandu, which is on a trekking route popular with Westerners. The entire village, which includes 55 guesthouses for trekkers, was wiped out by the avalanche, officials said.

“Local volunteers and police personnel are digging through six-feet (deep) snow with shovels looking for more bodies,” said

Gautam Rimal, assistant chief district officer in the area where Langtang is located.

The dead include at least seven foreigners but only two had been identified, he said.

It was not clear how many people were in Langtang at the time of the avalanche but other officials said about 120 more people could be buried under the snow.

“We had not been able to reach the area earlier because of rains and cloudy weather,” Uddhav Bhattarai, the district’s senior bureaucrat, said by telephone on Sunday.

The April 25 earthquake has killed 7,366 people and wounded nearly 14,500, Nepal’s government said. The disaster has prompted an international relief and rescue effort.

The chief of India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), which was among the first foreign organisations to arrive after the quake, said it had been asked by the Nepalese government to conclude its search and rescue operation.

“All the search and rescue teams, not the relief (teams) … have been asked to return,” NDRF Director General O.P. Singh told Indian television. “We will see how best it can be done.”

At least 18 of the trekker deaths were on Mount Everest, where avalanches hit the slopes of the world’s highest peak. The government said on Monday that it had not closed the mountain to climbers, though the route up to the peak was damaged.

“Climbers at base camp don’t think the route will be fixed anytime soon,” said Tulsi Prasad Gautam, a senior official at Nepal’s tourism department. “It’s up to the climbers and the organisers who are at base camp to take a decision: we are not asking them to do one thing or another.”

Climbers pay $11,000 each to climb Everest, and 357 were registered for this climbing season. Last year, the government extended permits when teams abandoned their expeditions after an avalanche killed 16 Sherpa mountain guides.

MIRACULOUS SURVIVORS

In other parts of the Himalayan nation, three people were pulled alive from the rubble of their home on Sunday, eight days after the earthquake, while several media outlets reported that a 101-year-old man was found alive in the rubble on Saturday.

U.S. military aircraft and personnel arrived in Nepal on Sunday and were due to begin helping ferry relief supplies to stricken areas outside the capital, a U.S. Marines spokeswoman said.

The deployment is expected to ease the piling up of relief material at Kathmandu airport, Nepal’s only major airport.

“We are still having problems getting things to people,” said Orla Fagan, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

On Sunday, the government restricted the landing of large cargo aircraft at the airport to limit damage to the stressed runway, said a U.N. official who declined to be named.

The United Nations has said 8 million of Nepal’s 28 million people were affected by the quake, with at least 2 million needing tents, water, food and medicines over the next three months.

More than half a million children are being vaccinated to prevent measles outbreaks, the UNICEF said in a statement on Monday. Around 1.7 million children remain in urgent need of humanitarian aid in the worst-hit areas, the statement added.

(Additional reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh, Krista Mahr and Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Ralph Boulton)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Rumblings… long after the quake

Images of the recent Himalayan earthquake have brought back the horrors of the tremors they survived years ago. Yogesh Pawar talks to those for whom the ground is still shaking – after Bhuj, Latur and Jabalpur – and finds out how they are coping with their trauma

1. A Nepalese child looks through the door of a destroyed home in Sathighar, north of Kathmandu, in the aftermath of the 7.9 magnitude quake that hit Nepal on April 25, 2015
2. Bhuj’s iconic Shri Swaminarayan Mandir was one of the many structures destroyed in the January 26, 2001 temblor
3. Vasai residents Subhashchandra Bose and wife Sandhya escaped the 1997 Jabalpur quake by the skin of their teeth

AFP
Bhuj, January 26, 2001: Magnitude 7.7, 18,600 killed Octogenarian Harsukhbhai Premji Shah has consciously stayed away from the papers and TV since last week Saturday, when an earthquake flattened large parts of Nepal killing about 10,000 people. But his wife, Bhagiratiben, about a decade younger than him, is glued to the TV screen, unable to tear her eyes away from the tragedy unfolding before her eyes.”Just watching it gives me palpitations,” says her husband. “But she sits transfixed by what is happening and then in the night gets nightmares and can’t sleep.”<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bhuj residents know exactly what an earthquake feels like. After all, they survived the 7.7 temblor that razed their ancestral home in Vayada Delho off Bhuj in Gujarat’s Kutch region on the country’s52nd Republic Day 14 years ago. Each detail is clearly etched in their mind.The day had begun early at 4:30 a.m. with the couple and Bhagiratiben’s speech and hearing impaired mother, now in her 1990s, attending to household chores. About four hours later, the earth began shaking. They would learn much later that their home was just 70 km from the epicentre of the quake that brought so much death, destruction and despair in its wake.”I thought it was only my old dilapidated house which was beginning to crumble,” remembers Bhagiratiben. “As vessels and containers began falling off shelves and racks, I forgot the tea on the stove and the rice I was measuring out for cooking and ran to where my mother was washing clothes in the bathing area. She had stood up in her place and was staring at the shaking ground in horror. I just hugged her and screamed out for my husband.”Instinctively, the trio stood in the dust cloud under a wooden doorway as bricks and mortar fell all over and screams from the neighbours rent the air. “It was only then that I realised that it was not only our house. God’s wrath had brought down a lot of homes that morning!” Bhagiratiben says, breaking down at the memory.What followed was scarier. “For three days, we, along with our neighbours, were forced to live on a playground. It was cold and uncomfortable in spite of the bonfires. Agonising screams for help from those trapped in the debris only added to the eerie atmosphere. It felt like the end of the world was upon us,” recalls Harsukhbhai as he admonishes his wife.”See how it disturbs you. Yet you keep watching it (Nepal quake scenes) on TV. Then even all those tablets don’t help you sleep.” Bhagiratiben has been on medication for insomnia since that Republic Day morning. Every time she hears of an earthquake anywhere she also gets breathless and uneasy.Today, they live 20 km away in Bhuj town across from Bhagiratiben’s childhood friend Mayaben Thakkar, who also suffers from nightmares from the tragedy and often wakes up screaming. She lost four members of her family that day.It had been the day after her granddaughter Brijal’s tenth birthday and the party had gone on till late. Brijal, her elder sister Tanvi, 12 and their parents (mother Mridulaben and father Harshadbhai) were sleeping in the ground floor bedroom.Mayaben’s voice is barely audible as she recalls the events of that terrible morning. “In the morning while we slept, the quake struck, bringing down both the top floors of the house. Since they were on the ground floor, they did not even have a chance to escape.””I don’t want to watch TV. But the papers are also full of the same stories,” she says. “I see the reports and feel like the 14-year-old horror is back.”Jabalpur, May 22, 1997: Magnitude 6, 39 killedSandhya Bose, 71, lives in the far western Mumbai suburb of Vasai. Though she’s 14 years and over 1,000 km away from Jabalpur where her family escaped an earthquake by the skin of their teeth, memories crowd her. The images of the Himalayan earthquake of last week have brought it all back.”I can’t eat and keep feeling uneasy and nauseous. After so many years, seeing this makes me feel frightened again at what could’ve easily been the fate of my family and me,” says the Bengali matriarch.Her husband Subhashchandra Bose was with the ordnance factory. The family lived in a Jabalpur Defence Colony row house. “My neighbour, who had to go her maternal home for two days, had left her children in my care. After everyone had dinner in my house, I went with the neighbours’ kids to sleep in their house while my husband stayed with our children in our house.”Around 4:20 a.m. in the morning when he found his bed swaying, Subhashchandra began screaming and calling out to his wife. “I heard him and tried to get up but my feet were unsteady on the shaky ground.I realised it was an earthquake and began screaming for the kids to wake up. They were very sleepy. I half-dragged and pushed them out of bed and the house,” says Sandhya. “There was a sound like a hundred bombs going off underground. The kids held on to us and began crying.”While the 6 magnitude quake saw few aftershocks, it took a long time for people to get back home, till the blazing May sun pushed them indoors. “Though a hot, dry summer wind was blowing, no one dared shut doors so that we could run out again in the event of another quake,” Latur, September 30, 1993: Magnitude 6.4, 10,000 killedSastur village in Osmanabad district where the Nalagaves live stands two kilometres from where the original Sastur stood. More than 1,200 of the 10,000 plus who died in the early morning Latur earthquake 22 years ago were from this village alone. Among them Rabbani Nalagave’s brother, Moosa, who was barely 10. “In our hurry to scramble out, I still don’t know how we missed him. When the stone and mud house collapsed on him, he died on the spot,” remembers the 37-year-old who still insists on sleeping outside.”I feel if I sleep inside there can be an earthquake any moment. My wife and children want the fan and sleep inside but I keep waking up in cold sweat thinking of the worst,” he says and adds, “I think this fear of the earthquake will go with me to my grave.”Years of poor sleep have hit his digestion and health badly and begun affecting his family too. “He’s not even 40 but often get breathless with panic attacks,” says his wife Zulekha. “He gets irritable if we try to make him understand so we just let him be. The doctors have given him medicines which help him relax and sleep but he’s very irregular with them.”She has forbidden him from watching any news since the Nepal earthquake last Saturday. “It just triggers another episode of irritable behaviour and panic. Instead of letting the children suffer, I realise its best if we don’t watch news.” The Shahs, Boses and the Nalagaves are only some of the earthquake survivors for whom the Nepal quake has triggered a fresh round of anxiety. There are many who find themselves reliving the horror.”This is residual post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which manifests when the patient sees similar circumstances which led to his original trauma,” explains psychiatrist Pavan Sonar. “Given their sensitivities, such people are best kept off news, images and visuals which will only bring back painful memories. These memories can trigger off a chain reaction because of the emotional turmoil it brings along.”Sonar agrees that traumatic events that lead to PTSD are usually overwhelming and frightening. “Following a traumatic event, almost everyone experiences at least some symptoms of PTSD. When your sense of safety and trust are shattered, it’s normal to feel crazy, disconnected, or numb. It’s very common to have bad dreams, feelfearful, and find it difficult to stop thinking about what happened. These are normal reactions to abnormal events. For most people, however, these symptoms are short-lived. They may last for several days or even weeks, but they gradually lift. But if you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the symptoms don’t decrease. You don’t feel a little better each day. In fact, you may start to feel worse.”According to him, treatment for PTSD relieves symptoms by helping you deal with the trauma you’ve experienced. “Instead of avoiding the trauma and any reminder of it, the therapist/counsellor/psychiatrist encourages the person to recall and process the emotions and sensations felt during the original event. Apart from offering an outlet for bottled up emotions, treatment involves restoring a sense of control and reducing the stranglehold of the traumatic experience on the patient’s life.”Sonar explains how trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (carefully and gradually “exposing” the person to thoughts, feelings, and situations that bring back memories of the trauma, replacing irrational fears with balanced thoughts) and family therapy (which is especially productive as it helps the family understand what the patient’s going through ironing out communication and relationship problems triggered by the PTSD) are preferred forms of treatment. “In extreme cases, we resort to medication for depression/anxiety caused by PTSD.”Armaity Desai, amongst the country’s leading social work educationists, also underlines that providing psycho-social support through counselling is as important, if not more, than relief, rehabilitation or medical intervention. She should know. It was under her watch as director of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) that the institute got involved in earthquake relief in Latur.”It helped that we had a rural campus in Tuljapur, Osmanabad,” she says. TISS’ intervention, many say, provides a template for working in such areas. “The approach needs to be holistic,” she underlines and adds, “We often found that the counsellors were providing a much needed cathartic outlet for the inevitable anger and sorrow which people feel after being thrust into a sudden inexplicable experience.”She emphasises the need for better coordination between relief agencies, NGOs and the government bodies in Nepal. “If this isn’t done, it just amounts to compounding the misery of the affected people as they scramble for essentials.”In her view, the worst thing done in the name of the intervention is the way children get uprooted. “Though it may be done with the best intentions, taking orphaned children far away from their cultural roots often kicks off another cycle of problems which grow and often stay with them for several years later. As far as possible attempts should be made to keep them as close to their socio-cultural backgrounds.”

Thousands still missing after Nepal quake | Reuters

KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Thousands of people were still missing in Nepal on Friday as food and help began to trickle through to those stranded in remote areas after last week’s earthquake which killed 6,250.

Up to 1,000 Europeans are still unaccounted for, mostly around popular trekking routes, the head of the European Union (EU) delegation in Nepal said.

“We don’t know where they are, or they could be,” Ambassador Rensje Teerink told reporters. Officials said it was hard to trace the missing because many backpackers do not register with their embassies.

“It does not mean that they are buried. They could have left the country without telling anyone before the earthquake struck,” Teerink said Reuters.

Nepal’s home ministry said it had not been informed that the number of EU citizens missing after Saturday’s earthquake could be as high as 1,000.

“If that is the case then why are the embassies not informing us? Why have they not contacted the Nepal government?” home ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal told Reuters.

The number of people unaccounted for from France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands is 371 according to checks Reuters made with their governments, while all Irish citizens, Croatians and Romanians have been traced. Other European nations are yet to provide an updated figure on how many of their citizens are unaccounted for.

Bodies are still being pulled from the debris of ruined buildings, while rescue workers have not been able to reach some remote areas.

The government put the number of injured at more than 14,350.

In the capital Kathmandu, many unclaimed bodies were being quickly cremated because of the need to avert disease and reduce the stench of corpses in areas where buildings had collapsed.

Many of the dead could be migrant workers from neighbouring India, local officials said.

“Morgues are full beyond capacity and we have been given instructions to incinerate bodies immediately after they are pulled out,” said Raman Lal, an Indian paramilitary force official working in coordination with Nepali forces.

Aid was slowly reaching remote towns and villages nestled in the Himalayan mountains and foothills of the impoverished nation. But government officials said efforts to step up the pace of delivery were frustrated by a shortage of supply trucks and drivers, many of whom had returned to their villages to help their families.

“Our granaries are full and we have ample food stock, but we are not able to transport supplies at a faster pace,” said Shrimani Raj Khanal, a manager at the Nepal Food Corp.

Army helicopters have air-dropped instant noodles and biscuits to remote communities but people need rice and other ingredients to cook a proper meal, he said.

Many Nepalis have been sleeping in the open since the 7.8 magnitude quake, with survivors afraid to return to their homes because of powerful aftershocks. According to the United Nations, 600,000 houses have been destroyed or damaged.

Information Minister Minendra Rijal said the government would provide $1,000 in immediate assistance to the families of those killed, as well as $400 for cremation or burial.

The U.N. said 8 million of Nepal’s 28 million people were affected, with at least 2 million needing tents, water, food and medicines over the next three months.

UNPRECEDENTED DAMAGE

Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said Nepal would need at least $2 billion to rebuild homes, hospitals, government offices and historic buildings and appealed for international backing.

“This is just an initial estimate and it will take time to assess the extent of damage and calculate the cost of rebuilding,” Mahat told Reuters.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told Reuters earlier this week the death toll from the quake could reach 10,000.

That would surpass the 8,500 who died in a 1934 earthquake, the last disaster on this scale to hit the nation sandwiched between India and China.

Home ministry spokesman Dhakal said that though the 1934 quake was more powerful, fewer people lived in the Kathmandu valley then.

“The scale of reconstruction will be unprecedented,” Dhakal said.

While international aid has poured in, some Nepalis have accused the government of being too slow to distribute it.

“There have been cases where villages have pelted stones on trucks carrying aid and food supplies. They must have been really hungry and angry to do so,” said Purna Shanker, who works at the government’s commodity trading office.

In Sundarkhula, a village close to the quake’s epicentre west of Kathmandu, villagers said they were searching their destroyed homes for food.

Bharat Regmi, 28, said he jumped out of the first floor as the quake lifted his house from its foundations. When he went back a few days later, he and two of his friends found a bag of potatoes in the rubble.

“We are living on water and whatever we can dig out from the house,” he said, standing under steady rain near the highway to Kathmandu. Later, he crept back under a thin orange sheet, shared with about a dozen other villagers.

Tensions have also flared between foreigners and Nepalis desperate to be evacuated.

In the Himalayas, climbing is set to reopen on Mount Everest next week after damage caused by avalanches is repaired, although many have abandoned their ascents.

An avalanche killed 18 climbers and sherpa mountain guides at the Everest base camp.

(Additional reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Tommy Wilkes in New Delhi; Gopal Sharma, Ross Adkin, Frank Jack Daniel, Andrew Marshall, Adnan Abidi and Christophe Van Der Perre in Nepal; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan/Ruth Pitchford)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Earthquake, what earthquake? Indian sensors didn’t feel a thing due to govt goof up

In the wake of the disastrous Nepal earthquake, reports have said that India’s preparedness for a quake as big as Nepal is dismal. But any hopes of learning from the Nepal earthquake may not happen thanks to Indian red tapism that has resulted in sensors placed to study such  natural calamities lying defunct.

Reuters image.Reuters image.

Reuters image.

According to a report in The Hindustan Times, seismologists and experts have said that assessing the scale of an earthquake or predicting aftershocks will not be possible because ground-motion detectors, the mainstay of earthquake monitoring in India, have been lying defunct for the last 8 months due to “bureaucratic bottlenecks.”

The detectors help scientists understand how an earthquake affects a building and it also assists in reducing the risk of damage from ground motion.

The Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (IIT-R) installed the system of sensors between 2005 to 2008. The system cost the government Rs 10 crore to install and Rs one crore per year to maintain.

Funded by the Union Science and Technology ministry, the sensors were installed in district headquarters across northern and eastern states, including Bengal and Bihar. Called accelerographs, these ground-motion detectors are vital as they serve as early warning system before an earthquake.

The Earth Sciences Ministry stopped funding the project in September 2014, and told IIT Roorkee in February this year to prepare to hand over the sensors to the National Centre for Seismology (NCS), an institution under the ministry. But it turns out the operation network of sensors may not have been taken up by either institution and were idling when the Nepal earthquake struck.

“During this government takeover, someone perhaps forgot that the sensors need maintenance,” Ram Iyengar, an earthquake engineering specialist formerly with the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.

This took place despite a professor of earthquake engineering at IIT Roorkee reportedly writing to the government in March 2015 warning that India would ‘cut a very sorry face’ if there was a major earthquake, since no data would be available.

The NCS, reportedly didn’t even actually seek access the sensors until the earthquake in Nepal, despite the fact that  the instruments require regular maintenance like having their batteries changed.

However, the government’s putting up a brave face for now, and has said that the data will be available.

“After successful experiments, these instruments have to be permanently made operational. Data is still available. If at all, this is a temporary gap,” Shailesh Naik, the earth sciences secretary, told HT.

As Firstpost noted earlier in this article, the “big” earthquake is yet to hit the Himalayan line and when it does it will be closer to India. Hopefully the government’s assurances aren’t invalid and it has recorded the data from the seismic event in Nepal. A failure to have done so could prove fatal for many in the future.

After devastating earthquake, Nepalese students in Delhi pitch in to assist in relief work

New Delhi: Far away from their homeland and family members in the hour of tragedy, hundreds of Nepalese students studying in Delhi have turned into foot soldiers to raise funds for sending relief and succour to quake-hit Nepal.

The 7.9-magnitude temblor on Saturday and succeeding aftershocks in the Himalayan nation have claimed over 6,000 lives and flattened the iconic architectural landscape of the country.

Rescue workers in Nepal. ReutersRescue workers in Nepal. Reuters

Rescue workers in Nepal. Reuters

20-year-old Prajwal Basnet, who is pursuing a course in Chartered Accountancy, joins a group of five-six fellow students to raise funds for the cause after attending classes.

“We are about 500 students who have volunteered to work towards raising funds. We study at the same place but we are from different parts of Nepal, and we have decided to put in our energies together to send relief material, medicines and other essential supplies there,” Basnet told PTI.

He said first batch of relief material has already been sent, and once the necessary items have been arranged for, “we will send the second one too.” Basnet, a resident of Itahari, about 350 kms from capital city Kathmandu, is in the final year of its course. These days he can be seen carrying a donation box in public places such as parks, malls and Delhi Metro premises, with ‘Save Nepal’ written in boldface on its front.

His friend Sagar Upreti, hailing from Chitwan district, carries a poster around to attract people’s attention and appeals to them to join in the cause. Upreti, 21, says, “We are here physically but our souls are with our family and other people affected by this unimaginable tragedy.”

His father survived a house collapse, and is now sleeping in the open. “We had a three-storeyed house and cracks developed in the walls of the ground floor and the top two storeys just caved in. My father was lucky as he ran out in time,” he said.

Mustang native Amina Gurung says “people have been responding to our plea and coming out to help us. “We raised Rs 66,000 on Tuesday in just two hours. We travelled to Huda City Centre metro station and other busy public places as we have to raise the money in quick time.”

In Nepal, grief has been taken over by anger as on Wednesday protests greeted  Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala when he visited relief camps, four days after the Nepal’s worst earthquake in over 80 years.

Another volunteer Deepa Byajankar, 20, from Patan city, which has been practically robbed of its architectural grandeur, says,” “My parents are safe but they are living in a tent in a ground nearby our house. People are still afraid to go back.”

“We have been living in Delhi for the last three to four years and right now, we are missing our family and homeland so badly. Last time, we went home was seven months ago for our holidays. And, the images we are getting from Nepal are horrifying,” she said.

Patan Darbar Square in Kathmandu Valley is a World Heritage Site, but, the temblor has reduced the cultural icon to a rubble. “It breaks my heart to know that all that beauty we grew up with as a child is no more to be seen. But, more than rebuilding temples and sites, it is the human lives that need to be rebuilt and rehabilitated. And, we want to be part of it, even if we are far away from our homes,” she added.

PTI

Nepal earthquake: Why many locals believe they are lucky

Why many Nepalese people believe they have been lucky

Indians flee Nepal, leaving behind jobs and savings | Reuters

GORAKHPUR, India (Reuters) – Traveling for hours on packed buses and boulder-strewn roads, thousands of Indians living in Nepal have fled home after last week’s devastating earthquake, most with little more than the clothes they were wearing.

Indians account for the largest segment of foreigners in Nepal, amounting to about 600,000 in a country of 28 million, according to some estimates. Officials, though, say the open 1,750 km (1,100 mile) border and a lack of visa requirements means it is impossible to pinpoint the number of Indians living or visiting there at any one time.

India was among the first countries to react to Saturday’s killer earthquake in the neighbouring Himalayan nation, sending in search and rescue teams within hours in a powerful diplomatic gesture. But it has also mounted an airlift and mobilised planes and dozens of buses to bring its own citizens home – some tourists, but many more workers who had lived in Nepal for years.

Suresh Sai, a 41-year-old, was among those who fled with his family to Gorakhpur, a city in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, on Wednesday. He had been working in Nepal for almost two decades.

“Even until last night, when I boarded a bus at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu to reach here, the ground appeared to be trembling under my feet,” he said, still standing in the clothes he was wearing when the 7.8 magnitude quake hit.

Sai worked for a business selling electronic goods until Saturday, but said he left everything behind, including his savings.

“I was often tempted to make an attempt to re-enter our house and at least to pick up what little cash and jewellery we had,” he said. “But neither my wife nor I could muster up courage to take the risk: the building shook so badly that it was full of deep cracks and could give way any time.”

Like many others, Sai has no prospects of work in India and could have to return to Nepal, but without his still-rattled family.

“I cannot think of falling back anywhere else, but my wife and kids are not able to get over the fear and panic of what they have experienced,” he said.

Nepal’s government has been largely absent from public view since the devastating earthquake that killed more than 5,000.

India, by contrast, has sent in tonnes of food, water, planes and rescue helicopters, and other nations have also offered millions of dollars in aid.

On the Indian side of the border, the government has set up relief camps, both at border crossings and in larger cities like Gorakhpur, where hundreds of Indians gathered before traveling on to family or friends.

Mahendra Ranawat, 44, originally from India’s Rajasthan state and a cloth merchant for 20 years in Kathmandu was travelling with his family: “We had no choice but to flee our home,” he said.

Hundreds camped out at Gorakhpur’s university, some in tents on open space outside and some on mattresses laid out in a newly built, still empty wing. Officials, on 24-hour rotation, said the facility can hold 1,000 people at any one time.

Critically for many who left with nothing but the cash in their pockets, India also set up counters to easily swap Nepalese rupees for Indian currency.

A few hundred kilometres (miles) southeast in the neighbouring state of Bihar, state authorities set up four camps along the border.

India won plaudits less than a month ago for the smooth evacuation of its citizens from Yemen, pulling out about 5,600 of its own citizens and even rescuing other foreign nationals — and the government has sought to repeat the feat.

Officials said this week more than 20,000 Indians had already been ferried back over the border from Nepal.

(Additional reporting by Aman Shah in MUMBAI and Manoj Chaurasia in PATNA; Writing by Clara Ferreira-Marques; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

DMK asks its MLAs,MPs to donate month’s salary for relief fund

DMK supremo Karunanidhi asks party MPs to donate salary as contribution towards relief fund.

DMK chief M Karunanidhi

Extending a helping hand to the victims of quake-hit Nepal, DMK today asked its MLAs and MPs to donate their one month’s salary towards the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.Party chief M Karunanidhi pointed out at the devastation caused by the earthquake and the subsequent suffering of the survivors, and referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance of India’s help to the Himalayan country.”There are reports that MPs are going to contribute their one month’s salary towards relief fund. In line with this, the DMK MLAs and Rajya Sabha MPs should also contribute their one month’s salary,” for this purpose, he said in a statement.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>DMK has 23 MLAs in the Tamil Nadu Assembly and four Rajya Sabha MPs.Over 5000 persons have been killed in the earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday.

India evacuates Nepal foreigners

India helps in evacuating 170 foreign nationals from 15 countries who were trapped in Nepal’s earthquake in which more than 5,000 people are now known to have died.

Nepal earthquake death toll tops 4,000: Aftershocks continue

Kathmandu: Crisis loomed over quake-hit Nepal on Monday following shortage of food, water, electricity and medicines as fear drove tens of thousands of people out into the open and the death toll soared to 4,000 amidst fears that it could touch 5,000.

Scrambling to put together massive rescue and relief efforts, the country hit by the worst quake in 80 years on Monday desperately sought international help to tide over the situation.

Rescue workers remove debris as they search for victims of earthquake in Bhaktapur near Kathmandu, Nepal. PTIRescue workers remove debris as they search for victims of earthquake in Bhaktapur near Kathmandu, Nepal. PTI

Rescue workers remove debris as they search for victims of earthquake in Bhaktapur near Kathmandu, Nepal. PTI

Rains and a powerful aftershock late tonight sent a fresh wave of panic on Monday after the Saturday’s 7.9-magnitude quake had flattened thousands of homes and buildings, leaving about 7,000 injured and scores missing.

A well-known Telugu movie choreographer, 21-year-old Vijay, was killed in a road accident in rain and aftershock of the temblor in the early hours of today when his film unit was on its way to Kathmandu. Seven women from Assam were also feared killed in the quake on Saturday.

More than 48 hours after the 7.9 magnitude temblor shook the Himalayan nation, multi-nation rescue teams, including from India, carried out relief work.

Armed with modern equipment, dumpers and earth removers and aided by sniffer dogs, disaster relief workers were trying to locate possible survivors against fading hopes.

The quake that flattened homes and buildings and the subsequent powerful aftershocks forced people out to live in the open under plastic tents, barely shielding them from cold and rains that have pounded the city.

Fuel and medicines were also in short supply. The picture was the same in suburbs of Kathmandu and in other rural areas.

Nepal’s top bureaucrat Leela Mani Paudel said the immediate and big challenge was relief. “We urge foreign countries to give us special relief materials and medical teams. We are really desperate for more foreign expertise to pull through this crisis,” he said.

“We are appealing for tents, dry goods, blankets, mattresses, and 80 different medicines that we desperately need now,” he told a press conference.

Hundreds of people are still trapped under tonnes of rubble in capital Kathmandu and some of the worst-affected remote mountainous areas amid concerns that toll could cross 5,000 mark, authorities said.

1,053 people are reported killed in the Kathmandu Valley alone and 875 in Sindhupalchowk.

Air services to Kathmandu return to normal

Air services to quake-devastated Nepalese capital Kathmandu from India returned to normal on Monday but shortage of parking bays at the airport was preventing the carriers to operate more flights to evacuate stranded people.

Jet Airways, meanwhile, said it will waive off freight charges for shipment of relief material on board its flights to Kathmandu.

Air India and SpiceJet were able to operate only one extra flight each in addition to their scheduled services. “Air India was able to operate four flights to Kathmandu today. Of these, three were from Delhi and one from Varanasi.

The three lights together ferried a total of 361 rescued travellers back to the country,” Air India said in a release.

The airline said it had planned to fly seven flights in all but could not accomplish the target due to paucity of parking bays at Tribhuvan International Airport, which impacted landing of flights and transportation of relief material.

The airline said it had also operated two flights from Kolkata to Kathmandu but had to return after hovering over Kathmandu skies for more than 90 minutes due to the non-availability of parking bays.

UNHRC rushes aid to Nepal

The United Nations refugee agency announced that it is rushing critical supplies to Nepal in the wake of the devastating earthquake that has killed over 4,000 people and injured thousands more, as it pledged to provide all assistance needed to help survivors.

“We are deeply saddened that thousands of people have been killed, injured or displaced in the disaster. These numbers are still rising with frequent aftershocks and as search and rescue teams reach remote areas,” Director of the Asia-Pacific bureau of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Daisy Dell said.

“UNHCR stands in solidarity with Nepal, which has been a generous host to thousands of refugees over the years,” she added.

The agency is sending 11,000 plastic sheets and 4,000 solar lanterns from its warehouse in Damak, eastern Nepal, to the eastern hilly districts of Ramechhap, Okhaldhunga and Sindhuli. An additional 8,000 plastic sheets and 4,000 solar lamps are being flown to the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, from Dubai via a cargo plane.

UNHCR will also be providing tarpaulins, which will help shelter earthquake victims whose homes have been destroyed or who are too afraid of aftershocks to return home. In view of the electricity shortage, UNHCR hopes that the solar lamps can provide some light in the affected areas and help to charge mobile phones at a time when families need to communicate urgently.

Following Nepal quake, Delhi tests disaster preparedness

After the devastating earthquake in Nepal, Delhi government on Monday decided to conduct mock drills to check preparedness of the government agencies to deal with disasters and also chalked out a disaster management plan having broad guidelines.

The move comes after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today held a review meeting to discuss the preparedness of the national capital in dealing with natural and man-made disasters.

According to senior government officials, the government has prepared state disaster management plan and district disaster management plans are also being prepared for all the eleven district.

PTI

Nepal earthquake death toll tops 4,000; crisis looms as shortages galore

Kathmandu: Crisis loomed over quake-hit Nepal on Monday following shortage of food, water, electricity and medicines as fear drove tens of thousands of people out into the open and the death toll soared to 4,000 amidst fears that it could touch 5,000.

Scrambling to put together massive rescue and relief efforts, the country hit by the worst quake in 80 years on Monday desperately sought international help to tide over the situation.

Rescue workers remove debris as they search for victims of earthquake in Bhaktapur near Kathmandu, Nepal. PTIRescue workers remove debris as they search for victims of earthquake in Bhaktapur near Kathmandu, Nepal. PTI

Rescue workers remove debris as they search for victims of earthquake in Bhaktapur near Kathmandu, Nepal. PTI

Rains and a powerful aftershock late tonight sent a fresh wave of panic on Monday after the Saturday’s 7.9-magnitude quake had flattened thousands of homes and buildings, leaving about 7,000 injured and scores missing.

A well-known Telugu movie choreographer, 21-year-old Vijay, was killed in a road accident in rain and aftershock of the temblor in the early hours of today when his film unit was on its way to Kathmandu. Seven women from Assam were also feared killed in the quake on Saturday.

More than 48 hours after the 7.9 magnitude temblor shook the Himalayan nation, multi-nation rescue teams, including from India, carried out relief work.

Armed with modern equipment, dumpers and earth removers and aided by sniffer dogs, disaster relief workers were trying to locate possible survivors against fading hopes.

The quake that flattened homes and buildings and the subsequent powerful aftershocks forced people out to live in the open under plastic tents, barely shielding them from cold and rains that have pounded the city.

Fuel and medicines were also in short supply. The picture was the same in suburbs of Kathmandu and in other rural areas.

Nepal’s top bureaucrat Leela Mani Paudel said the immediate and big challenge was relief. “We urge foreign countries to give us special relief materials and medical teams. We are really desperate for more foreign expertise to pull through this crisis,” he said.

“We are appealing for tents, dry goods, blankets, mattresses, and 80 different medicines that we desperately need now,” he told a press conference.

Hundreds of people are still trapped under tonnes of rubble in capital Kathmandu and some of the worst-affected remote mountainous areas amid concerns that toll could cross 5,000 mark, authorities said.

1,053 people are reported killed in the Kathmandu Valley alone and 875 in Sindhupalchowk.

Air services to Kathmandu return to normal

Air services to quake-devastated Nepalese capital Kathmandu from India returned to normal on Monday but shortage of parking bays at the airport was preventing the carriers to operate more flights to evacuate stranded people.

Jet Airways, meanwhile, said it will waive off freight charges for shipment of relief material on board its flights to Kathmandu.

Air India and SpiceJet were able to operate only one extra flight each in addition to their scheduled services. “Air India was able to operate four flights to Kathmandu today. Of these, three were from Delhi and one from Varanasi.

The three lights together ferried a total of 361 rescued travellers back to the country,” Air India said in a release.

The airline said it had planned to fly seven flights in all but could not accomplish the target due to paucity of parking bays at Tribhuvan International Airport, which impacted landing of flights and transportation of relief material.

The airline said it had also operated two flights from Kolkata to Kathmandu but had to return after hovering over Kathmandu skies for more than 90 minutes due to the non-availability of parking bays.

UNHRC rushes aid to Nepal

The United Nations refugee agency announced that it is rushing critical supplies to Nepal in the wake of the devastating earthquake that has killed over 4,000 people and injured thousands more, as it pledged to provide all assistance needed to help survivors.

“We are deeply saddened that thousands of people have been killed, injured or displaced in the disaster. These numbers are still rising with frequent aftershocks and as search and rescue teams reach remote areas,” Director of the Asia-Pacific bureau of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Daisy Dell said.

“UNHCR stands in solidarity with Nepal, which has been a generous host to thousands of refugees over the years,” she added.

The agency is sending 11,000 plastic sheets and 4,000 solar lanterns from its warehouse in Damak, eastern Nepal, to the eastern hilly districts of Ramechhap, Okhaldhunga and Sindhuli. An additional 8,000 plastic sheets and 4,000 solar lamps are being flown to the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, from Dubai via a cargo plane.

UNHCR will also be providing tarpaulins, which will help shelter earthquake victims whose homes have been destroyed or who are too afraid of aftershocks to return home. In view of the electricity shortage, UNHCR hopes that the solar lamps can provide some light in the affected areas and help to charge mobile phones at a time when families need to communicate urgently.

Following Nepal quake, Delhi tests disaster preparedness

After the devastating earthquake in Nepal, Delhi government on Monday decided to conduct mock drills to check preparedness of the government agencies to deal with disasters and also chalked out a disaster management plan having broad guidelines.

The move comes after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today held a review meeting to discuss the preparedness of the national capital in dealing with natural and man-made disasters.

According to senior government officials, the government has prepared state disaster management plan and district disaster management plans are also being prepared for all the eleven district.

PTI

Live: India evacuates 5400 citizens from Nepal, sets up helpline 1078

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A high-intensity quake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale on Saturday rocked many parts of east and north India, including Delhi. The epicentre of the earthquake was in Nepal.

Tremors were felt across eastern and northern parts of India, said JL Gautam, Head Operations Seismology of Indian Meteorological Department (IMD).

“Earthquake of magnitude 7.5 occurred today at 11.41 AM between latitude 28.1 North and Longitude 84.6 East. The epicentre was located in Nepal,” an IMD statement said. The magnitude was later revised to 7.9.

An earthquake of magnitude 7.9 hit Nepal on Saturday. Reuters

An earthquake of magnitude 7.9 hit Nepal on Saturday. Reuters

The tremors, which were felt in Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab, lasted for about a minute, triggering panic and forcing people to rush out of their houses and offices.

There were no immediate reports of loss of life or damage to property in Delhi, but several houses were damaged and reports of people being injured in Nepal.

PM Narendra Modi tweeted about the earthquake, saying the government was in the process of finding out more information.

ANI also reported that after the tremors, a stampede took place in Kutchery, Varanasi.

Officials said Metro train services in Delhi were also affected due to the earthquake. Mobile phone services in Patna were also reportedly affected.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar consulted his state administration and took stock of the situation. “Information is being collected from all districts. Everyone is on the field,” Nitish Kumar said.

Mild tremors were felt in various parts of Uttar Pradesh, triggering panic and forcing people to rush out in the open.

Etah, Farukkhabad, Mainpuri, Hathras, Aligarh, Varanasi, Sultanpur, Rae Bareli, Faizabad and Muzaffarnagar were some of the districts that experienced the quake.

In Rajasthan, the tremors were felt in Jaipur, Jhunjhunu, Ajmer, Sikar and Bundi.

In Jaipur, people in Bapu Nagar, Barkat Nagar, Sodala and Jhotwara rushed out of their buildings in panic. However, no loss to life or property was reported.

The tremors were felt in various parts of Kolkata, especially in Lake Town, Salt Lake, Dalhousie and Park street area.

“The tremors of the earthquake which had its epicentre in Nepal region was felt here in the city and other parts of the Eastern region. The magnitude of the earthquake on the Richter Scale is 7.5 . We are still waiting for more details,” DK Das , a senior official of Kolkata Meteorological department said.

Reports from the districts said it was also experienced in Purulia, Bankura, Burdwan, East Midnapore and Nadia district.

No loss of life or property was reported from anywhere in Haryana and Punjab, which also felt the tremors.

DG of Meteorological Department LS Rathore also said that aftershocks of 6.6 magnitude were felt following the initial tremors. MET Director GL Gautam called the earthquake a “massive earthquake”.

(With inputs from PTI)

Nepal earthquake: India launches national disaster helpline 1078

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.

Representational image, AFPRepresentational image, AFP

Representational image, AFP

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.

PTI

2,500 Indians evacuated from Nepal, Lok Sabha MPs to donate salary

New Delhi: Expanding its rescue efforts, government on Monday said in Lok Sabha that over 2,500 Indians have been evacuated from quake-hit Nepal so far and free visas are being given to foreigners stranded there and want to come to India.

Members of the Lower House also decided to donate a month’s salary for the relief work in Nepal with a proposal by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu being quickly accepted by the Opposition.

ReutersReuters

Reuters

Responding to an impromptu debate on the devastating earthquake in Lok Sabha, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the earthquake toll in India has reached 72 with 56 deaths reported in Bihar, 12 in UP, three in West Bengal and one in Rajasthan.

Giving details of India’s mammoth rescue and relief exercise in the neighbouring country, Singh said 10 NDRF teams are already in Kathmandu and six more on their way. An engineering task force and 18 medical units have also been rushed.

“One Unmanned Aerial Vehicle is also on the way,” he said, adding that an inter-ministerial team headed by a top Home Ministry official was being sent along with 250 high frequency wireless sets to coordinate rescue and relief work.

Calling it a “very big tragedy”, Singh said India stands by Nepal and those affected in India in this hour of crisis. He also thanked the governments of Bihar, UP and Uttarakhand for setting up relief camps at the border with Nepal and plying buses to evacuate people.

Communication experts have also been rushed to Nepal to restore the broken communication system in the country.

“We are also helping foreigners. We have decided to give free visas to those willing to come to India. Immigration facilities have been set up in this regard,” he said.

India has already sent 22 tonnes of food, two tonnes of medical supplies, 50 tonnes of water besides large numbers of blankets and other relief material.

With many members praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his prompt response following the quake, Singh also lauded him and conceded that he learnt about the tragedy from the Prime Minister himself. “As Home Minister, I should have been aware but it is he who informed me.”

Earlier, as soon as the House met for the day, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan expressed grief over deaths of people in Nepal and India due to the earthquake. The House also stood in silence briefly as a mark of respect for the departed.

The debate also saw several members underlining the need to strengthen the disaster response mechanism, especially in the states, to tide over such a crisis.

Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) and Yogi Adityanath (BJP) also wondered about the damage caused by the quake in Tibet and urged the government to find out the details.

Adityanath said the quake was an outcome of the wanton destruction of environment in the Himalayas, especially in Tibet through which China is now planning an underground rail linkage to Nepal.

Mallikarjun Kharge (Congress) said it is a matter of pride that India is standing by its neighbour in this hour of crisis and noted that all parties should stand together as one person cannot provide all the help.

He also wondered if the society is moving in the wrong direction in this era of technology and inviting the nature’s fury. He urged the Centre to tone up disaster management machinery in states, noting that many states have still not set up such a mechanism.

Saugata Roy (TMC) demanded that modern technology should be harnessed to predict such natural disasters and wondered what would be the damage in cities like Delhi and Kolkata if such a quake hit them.

Vinayak Raut (Shiv Sena), Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav (RJD), Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), Chirag Paswan (LJP) Mohd Salim (CPI-M), P Ravindra Babu (TDP), Arun Kumar (RLSP), Kaushalendra Kumar (JD-U), Prem Singh Chandumajra (SAD) and M Rajmohan Reddy (YSR Congress) were among those who spoke.

Mala Rajya Laxmi Shah (BJP), who is of Nepalese origin, expressed concern over the death and devastation in the Himalayan nation and said she has been unable to reach her brother living there.

PTI

Social Media hunt: Facebook’s ‘Safety Check’, Google’s ‘Person Finder’ help find quake survivors

After the massive earthquake in Nepal that left 1,900 people dead and almost 5,000 injured, people have started using Google and Facebook’s safety tools to locate their loved ones in the quake hit regions and/or to ease the worries of their relatives by letting them know that they are fine.

For instance, members of one Himmatramka family residing in Birgunj in Nepal marked themselves safe on Facebook. “Our relatives back in India were worried about our safety. So, we marked ourselves safe to inform them,” said Nitesh Himmatramka.

People from parts of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh have also used this app mentioning that they are safe.

Reportedly, Facebook had come up with the ‘safety check’ feature last October and with the help of this feature people in earthquake affected regions can let their relatives know that they are safe by clicking on the safe button. People who know that their friends in an affected region are safe can mark them safe on their behalf.

“This morning we activated Safety Check for people affected by the earthquake in Nepal. It’s a simple way to let family and friends know you’re okay. If you’re in one of the areas affected by the earthquake, you’ll get a notification asking if you’re safe, and whether you want to check on any of your friends. When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe. It’s moments like this that being able to connect really matters. My thoughts are with everyone who’s been caught up in this tragedy,” Facebook CEO Mark  Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post this morning.

Site: FirstpostSite: Firstpost

Site: Firstpost

Even Google, the global search giant, has adapted its Person Finder tool to help friends and relatives of the victims of a devastating earthquake that struck the Himalayan country of Nepal Saturday. The Web application, launched in 2010 after a massive quake in Haiti, was created to help families and first responders gather and relay information about missing people to loved ones.

As of Saturday evening in Nepal, the service had more than 600 records.

Google’s Person Finder feature is to basically build a missing persons database. In this tool there are two options, the first one states “I’m looking for someone” and the second one says, “I have information about someone” and you can make your updates by clicking on either. The tool is available in English and Nepali.

Apart from these digital platforms, even telephone network providers are helping in the search of missing people. For the next two days, Idea and Bharti Airtel have made all calls to Nepal (on the home network) free, while BSNL and MTNL announced that they will take local charges for the next three days for any call made to Nepal.

Moreover, the search is available through SMS in India and the US by sending “search ” to +91-9773300000 (India) or +1-650-800-3978 (US).

U.S. mountaineering companies scramble to keep in touch with Everest climbers | Reuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. companies and travel groups frantically tried to keep in touch with climbers stuck on Mount Everest on Saturday after a 7.9-magnitude earthquake devastated Nepal and killed nearly 1,400 people.

The quake, the worst to hit the Himalayan country for 81 years, flattened buildings and sent tremors through neighboring India.

The quake also triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, where Nepal’s Tourism Industry estimated at least 1,000 climbers, including about 400 foreigners, had been on the mountain or at a base camp when the quake hit.  An Indian Army mountaineering team found 18 bodies on the mountain.

Dan Fredinburg, a Google executive who was climbing with the British mountaineering company Jagged Globe, was among those killed on the mountain, Google said, adding he died of a head injury. Three other Google employees who traveled with him were safe, the company said in a post on the social network Google Plus. The company said it was working to “get them home quickly.”

U.S.-based climbing groups that lead Everest expeditions, which often last up to 70 days or more, said they had been in touch with mountaineers via satellite phone and kept concerned family members and friends updated through social media and blogs on their websites.

Alpine Ascents, a Seattle-based climbing group, said its six-person team called in from Everest’s Camp 1 to say everyone was safe, said Gordon Janow, the group’s director of programs. He said concerned family members called throughout the day to receive updates on their relatives and that the group was assessing what to do next.  

A climber from RMI’s Everest Expeditions, Dave Hahn, wrote in a blog post on the group’s website that he and four others were at Camp 1 when the earthquake hit and unleashed avalanches “off of all the mountains around us” but that everyone was safe. He added that they could not travel but were self-sufficient at the camp.

April is one of the most popular times of the year to scale the 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) peak, the world’s highest, before rain and clouds cloak it at the end of May.

Almost exactly a year ago, an avalanche killed 16 Nepali guides in what had been the single deadliest day on the mountain. 

             

(Editing by Frances Kerry)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

India has mobilised all resources to help Nepal: Parrikar

New Delhi: Assuring full help to Nepal in wake of the devastating earthquake, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today said all resources are being mobilised to help the Himalayan country.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTIDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. PTI

He said IAF has been pressed into service to take NDRF teams, doctors, clothes, medicines, water among others to Nepal, where nearly 700 people were killed after a powerful earthquake measuring 7.9 on Richter scale struck earlier in the day.

“As directed by prime minister, we have mobilised all resources to support Nepal. We have at present diverted three aircraft and two helicopters to carry NDRF team, doctors, food, water and medicine among others to Nepal,” Parrikar told PTI.

He added that Army chief General Dalbir Singh is in touch with his Nepalese counterpart to extend any help that the nation might need as part of search and rescue operations.

Talking about the situation in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other affected states, Parrikar said he has directed all Army units and others to carry out rescue operation and extend full cooperation to local authorities.

As the news of the tragic earthquake in Nepal came in, the defence ministry had immediately put the Army, BRO and IAF assets on standby.

Indian Air Force’s C-130J Super Hercules has already landed at Kathmandu carrying 39 NDRF personnel and 3.5 tonnes of relief material.

Defence sources said two Indian Army field hospitals and two Engineers Task Force teams have been put on emergency standby to leave for Nepal.

A C-17 heavy jet aircraft with 40 rapid action medical team (RAMT) personnel and paramedics has also being pressed into service.

The army is also sending Major General JS Sandhu to Nepal to oversee Indian rescue efforts in the quake-hit Himalayan country, defence sources said.

Meanwhile, an Indian Army team which was on an expedition to Mount Everest recovered 13 bodies from the base camp.

The Indian defence establishment has till now sent over communication equipment, fuel, earth-moving vehicles and sniffer dogs, among others, to the neighbouring country to aid in the rescue efforts, sources said.

PTI

Nearly 1,500 dead in Nepal’s killer quake, India mounts massive rescue operation

Kathmandu: Nepal was today struck by the worst earthquake in 80 years, leaving nearly 1,500 people dead in flattened houses and buildings including the iconic Dharhara tower and renowned Darbar Square in the heart of the capital.

The quake measuring 7.9 on Richter scale, which was followed by 16 aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or greater, striking heavy casualties in Kathmandu and injuring thousand others. Hundreds were feared missing across the country.

Nepalese people walk past a collapsed bullding in Kathmandu after an earthquake on 25 April  2015. A massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake killed hundreds of people as it ripped through large parts of Nepal, toppling office blocks and towers in Kathmandu and triggering a deadly avalanche that hit Everest base camp. AFPNepalese people walk past a collapsed bullding in Kathmandu after an earthquake on 25 April  2015. A massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake killed hundreds of people as it ripped through large parts of Nepal, toppling office blocks and towers in Kathmandu and triggering a deadly avalanche that hit Everest base camp. AFP

Nepalese people walk past a collapsed bullding in Kathmandu after an earthquake on 25 April 2015. A massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake killed hundreds of people as it ripped through large parts of Nepal, toppling office blocks and towers in Kathmandu and triggering a deadly avalanche that hit Everest base camp. AFP

“Army estimates death toll as much as 1457 so far,” Nepal’s Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat tweeted.

He said, “90 per cnt of approx 1000 homes and huts reduced to rubble in Barpak Larpak area.”

According to Nepalese home ministry figures, 150 people lost lives in neighbouring Bhaktapur, 250 in Sindhu, 67 in Lalitpur and 37 in Dhading district. Besides, 20 people were killed in the country’s eastern region, 33 in western region and rest in other parts of the Himalayan nation.

The earthquake around 11:56 am with epicentre at Lamjung, around 80 kilometers northwest of Kathmandu, had its impact in several cities in Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh and tremors were felt across vast stretches of east and North East India.

It was also felt in Southern and Western parts of India, China, Bhutan and as far as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Miraculously the famous 5th century Pashupatinath temple here was undamaged, while a number of old temples were razed.

Several buildings, most of them old, in the densely-populated Kathmandu Valley collapsed, killing hundreds.

Over 200 bodies have been retrieved from the debris of two-century old nine-storey landmark Dharhara tower in the centre of the capital.

Kathmandu’s Darbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was completely damaged in the quake which was the worst to hit Nepal and surrounding regions after the earthquake of 8.4 magnitude which occurred along the Nepal-Bihar border in 1934.

Video footages showed a number of buildings having cavedin or developing huge cracks. Many of the city roads have suffered wide craters in the impact, affecting movement of vehicles and rescue operations.

Army, police and emergency workers were pressed into service for rescue of those trapped and rushing injured survivors to hospitals. Many of the injured could be seen suffering bleeding injuries covered in dust from the debris.

Indian Embassy spokesperson Abhay Kumar said some walls have collapsed in the impact of the earthquake and the embassy has set up two helplines +977 98511 07021, +977 98511 35141.

Fifty doctors have arrived from India to provide emergency services. India dispatched as many as four aircraft including a C-130 plane carrying three tonnes of relief supplies and a 40-member rescue team to Nepal.

The daughter of a local employee in the Indian embassy died and his wife suffered serious injuries when a house in the mission complex in Kathmandu collapsed during the quake.

Nearly 125 people from Maharashtra and Telangana are stranded in Nepal after the earthquake.

Around 80 people from Nashik had gone to Nepal for pilgrimage while 15-20 people were on a trekking expedition. Twenty-five tourists from Hyderabad, who are in Kathmandu, are safe.

“Now, all of us are safe in an open ground, close to the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu,” said Gowrishankar, who took the tourists.

Four Chinese nationals, including a climber, were killed and five were critically injured in the earthquake.

Hospitals were over-crowded with injured, with many of them being treated in the open outside the hospitals.

An emergency cabinet meeting has announced 29 districts as crisis zones, the home ministry said.

The quake caused avalanches on Mount Everest, sending mountaineers running for cover.

Gyanendra Shrestha, an official at the Ministry of Tourism, said that 10 people including foreign climbers have been killed in the avalanche triggered by the earthquake.

The earthquake first struck around 11:56 am (local time) followed by aftershocks, Nepal Police spokesperson Kamal Singh Bam said.

Nepal’s TV channels showed dozens of bodies lined up on ground after the earthquake. Television pictures also showed some of the people rescued from under the debris.

A Nepali minister said there had been “massive damage” at the epicentre.

“We need support from the various international agencies which are more knowledgeable and equipped to handle the kind of emergency we face now,” Information Minister Minendra Rijal said.

Initially measured at 7.5 magnitude, the quake was later revised to 7.9, with a depth of 15 kilometres.

National radio warned people to stay outdoors and keep calm as more aftershocks were feared. The Tribhuvan International Airport has been closed.

PTI

Jaitley expresses grief over loss of lives due to quake

New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today expressed grief over loss of life and property due to a major earthquake with epicentre in Nepal that also hit large parts of India.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. ReutersUnion Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Reuters

“Today indeed is a challenging and solemn day because a significant part of our country, more particularly Nepal, has been very seriously affected by a natural calamity. Our hearts go out to all those who suffered both in terms of life, injury or property,” he said.

He was speaking at the valedictory function of the Global Exhibition on Services (GES) in New Delhi.

A strong earthquake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale shook Nepal and several parts of India, including the national capital, leaving a trail of devastation in the Himalayan nation.

The quake, at 11:41 am IST, had its epicentre in Nepal and flattened houses, created huge craters and cracks on roads in Kathmandu, where people rushed out of their offices and homes.

Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the earthquake news is “distressing and worrying”.

“Our heart goes out to people of Nepal who seem to have bore the brunt because the epicentre was somewhere close to Kathmandu. However, several parts of India are also reportedly affected by this,” she said.

PTI

IAF airlifts NDRF personnel, relief material to Nepal

New Delhi: Indian Air Force’s C-130 J Super Hercules aircraft today took off from the Hindon airbase here carrying NDRF personnel and relief material to Nepal in the wake of the devastating earthquake that has hit the Himalayan country.

An IAF CJ-130 aircraft.An IAF CJ-130 aircraft.

An IAF CJ-130 aircraft.

Defence sources said a C-17 Globemaster is being prepared for take off and will be carrying about 40-member strong Rapid Reaction Aero Medical Team and doctors besides relief material to the country after India assured Nepal of all help.

A 1L-76 transport aircraft will also take off soon with more National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) personnel on board.

After dropping the NDRF team, C-130 J will perform aerial recce to check road communication to Pokhara and return to Hindon, defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar tweeted.

The defence ministry has already put Indian Army, BRO and IAF assets on standby for any task in view of the earthquake.

Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mahesh Sharma said Air India and IndiGo flights are ready for departure to Kathmandu for rescuing the stranded Indians.

“Three Air India flights and some Indigo are ready to take off but the Air Traffic Control in Kathmandu is closed. Once the ATC resumes operations these aircraft will start flying there,” he told PTI.

When asked about international flights bound for Kathmandu being diverted to India, he said the flights are being diverted to Delhi and some other airports close to the Nepal capital.

Asked whether stranded Indians would be rescued via roads, he said that option would also explored.

PTI

Afzal Guru’s hanging wrong and was badly handled, tweets Shashi Tharoor

In what could be another embarrassment for the Congress, party leader Shashi Tharoor today termed the hanging of Parliament attack convict Mohammad Afzal Guru as “wrong and badly handled.”

. @pankajsrini I think the hanging was both wrong &badly handled. Family should have been warned, given a last meeting & body returned

— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) February 9, 2015

Sir, before RSS bashing,what’s your opinion on Congress’s apology to Afzal Guru in exchange for Rajya Sabha seat for GN Azad? @ShashiTharoor

— PankajS (@pankajsrini) February 9, 2015

Tharoor’s comments come  after a  joint statement of five Congress lawmakers in Jammu and Kashmir in which they admitted that Afzal Guru’s hanging was a “mistake.”

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor. PTI

Accoring to a report in The Hindustan Times, the senior Congress leader, who was fired from the spokesperson post, said that the militants family should have been informed and allowed to meet him one last time.

Hundreds of police and paramilitary soldiers patrolled the disputed region of Kashmir on Monday during a strike called by anti-India separatists to protest the secret execution two years ago of Afzal Guru, Associated Press reported.

Streets of Srinagar were nearly deserted as shops and offices remained shut to mark the anniversary of the execution. Authorities imposed a curfew in parts of Srinagar and detained at least 100 anti-India activists to prevent violent protests.

Kashmiris were incensed when Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged in secret on 9 February 2013, in a New Delhi jail. Many in the mostly Muslim region of Kashmir believe Guru was not given a fair trial on charges of involvement in a 2001 attack on Parliament that killed 14 people, including five gunmen.

Guru had fought earlier with rebels in an armed uprising that started in 1989 in the Himalayan region. An estimated 68,000 people were killed in the uprising and ensuing Indian crackdown.

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