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Nawaz Sharif gets birthday hug from Narendra Modi in Lahore; surprise move stuns even PM’s own party

“Spoke to PM Nawaz Sharif & wished him on his birthday,” came the first tweet. The twitter handle was @narendramodi.Then came the second. “Looking forward to meeting PM Nawaz Sharif in Lahore today afternoon, where I will drop by on my way back to Delhi.”It took the world by surprise. Modi was in Kabul then. But at the end of the two-and-a-half hours in Pakistan, the two sides had given trust a big push. The two leaders agreed to increase people-to-people contact and take talks forward.The prime minister’s choice of the day for the visit was also significant. It was not only Christmas day, it was Nawaz Sharif’s birthday as well. It was also the Rasm-e-Heena (a wedding ceremony) of Sharif’s granddaughter Mehr ul Nisa.In fact, Modi was recreating what his mentor A B Vajpayee did in 1999, that too on the latter’s birthday.In his inimitable style, Modi ended 2015 with a unique diplomatic venture, having dinner in Moscow, breakfast and lunch in Kabul and afternoon Kashmiri noon chai (salt tea) at Sharif’s Raiwand residence.The surprise move even caught Modi’s own party, the BJP, off-guard. Its leaders, however, characterised it as one of PM’s “pleasant surprises”.Though official sources here said that the PM himself took this “instantaneous” decision, the sequence of events over the past one week, makes one believe that a window was being explored behind-the-scene for this highly secretive visit.Pakistan’s high commissioner in India, Abdul Basit, had left for Islamabad last Tuesday. The presence of an Indian industrialist in Lahore, who had arranged a one-to-one meeting between Modi and Sharif on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Kathmandu last year, to attend Sharif’s birthday as well as the wedding of his granddaughter, doesn’t seem a coincidence.After the meeting, Pakistani foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry said: “The Modi-Sharif meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere… It has been decided that there will be greater interaction, people-to-people contact, and an environment of goodwill will be created.”Pakistani channels reported that both the prime ministers were in a casual mood during the chai pe charcha, which included vegetables, kheer and special Kashmiri salt tea. Sharif later saw off PM Modi at the airport.Chaudhry said that during the brief meeting, the two PMs decided that as part of a comprehensive dialogue, the foreign secretaries of the two countries will meet in mid-January.Attempting to dispel the notion that the visit was pre-planned, Chaudhry said that the Pakistani PM’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz and National Security Adviser Nasir Janjua too would have attended the meeting if the Indian PM had informed about his visit earlier.He added that the two sides decided to collectively work towards the common goal of fighting poverty and to open new avenues for peace and mutual cooperation between the two neighbouring countries.Special security arrangements were put in place in and around Lahore. Flights were diverted or grounded, hours before the Indian Air Force plane hit the tarmac of the Alama Iqbal Airport, Lahore. Modi had left for Moscow in Air India One, meant for the PM’s foreign travels, he arrived in Kabul and Lahore in an Indian Air Force plane which was escorted by a decoy plane and was also laced with defence systems.Modi is scheduled to visit Pakistan once again, in September 2016, to attend the SAARC summit.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>

Chennai Floods: Students recount harrowing ordeal, Nepal quake survivor among hundreds rescued

SRM University has three campuses and its main centre in Guindy and VIT Vellore’s Chennai campus were badly-hit.

A waterlogged area in the city

PTI
18-year-old Abhik Thapa, a Nepalese student at a private university in Chennai, had come to India as one of the lucky survivors of the killer April earthquake and now he is heading back to Kathmandu after having lived through the Chennai rains tragedy.The student of genetics at the SRM University, which bore the heavy brunt of the rains during the first few days, was among the several students left stranded in their hostels, after the torrential rains pounded the city last week.Thapa and his college mates were eventually rescued by a coordinated team of defence personnel and finally brought to the Tambaram Air Base, nearly 30 km from here, before being flown to Delhi.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”My home is in Kathmandu and our family survived that massive calamity, with a little damage to our house. But, yes the disaster and the experiences thereof, of seeing Nepal get back on its feet, helped me cope with with tragedy,” Thapa told PTI in Tambaram.As per the plan, several of the rescued people after being assembled at the Tambaram Base are being taken by Mi-14 choppers in batches to the Arakkonam Naval Base, 70 km west of Chennai, and from there to different cities, mostly in C-17s. A couple of civilian rescue flights also ferried a few hundred students in the past few days to Delhi, Bengaluru or Hyderabad.Mumbai-native Sankalp Mohapatra, 21, was stranded for nearly three days at Chennai Airport along with several of his friends from VIT, Vellore. All of them were to catch a flight back to their hometown, little knowing that they had something else in store. Battling choppy weather, power crisis, inundated streets and the odds, the students, with a few girls among them, survived through the tough times, keeping each other strong.”Our flight was for December 1, and after announcement of delay it was finally cancelled. We all slept at the airport as we were expecting a replacement flight next day, but it only got worse from there. Next day evening they shut down the electricity connection, as water was coming to the arrival side, and then by late evening it went pitch dark,” Sankalp says.”We then stepped out of the airport and decided to first make way to the Koyambedu bus station in Chennai, but seeing the water gushing out, we decide to go back to the airport premises, as we felt it was safer there,” the fourth-year student of Computer Science adds.His friend Pallav Gupta, 21, a Delhi resident, shares another harrowing tale of their ordeal. “Many taxi and auto drivers tried to take advantage of our situation. They were asking Rs 35,000-Rs 40,000 for taking us barely a few kms. Even for the nearest metro, they charged about couple of thousands (of rupees). We did not have much money, the ATMs were out of cash, so we could not leave the airport,” Gupta rues. Pallav’s friend, Aditi Mehindiratta, 21, a Gurgaon resident, who was with them, says she was worried, but at no point scared. “After our flights were cancelled, we were given a bus by the airport authorities to Koyambedu Bus Terminal, but on way to the place, we saw water gushing out in front of us. “We then immediately turned around and went back to the airport and stayed put there until help arrived from defence, after one of our friends, whose father is in Air Force contacted him,” she says.SRM University has three campuses and its main centre in Guindy and VIT Vellore’s Chennai campus were badly-hit.”We were in our rooms on the ground floor when the water started entering from beneath the doors and suddenly started rising. We immediately ran upstairs on to the higher floors.Our university rescue team helped and fed us initially and then defence people came in and took us to Tambaram Air Base,” says Ayush Pandey, a Kanpur native and a 1st year student at the VIT Chennai campus.19-year-old Akhshay Jyoti, son of a retired commander in Navy, had to contact his father, after being surrounded with water at his campus in Hindustan University. “We were stuck in our university for a few days after the last heavy rain and later a ‘Chetak’ came and airlifted five of us students. We were then brought to the Tambaram Base before flying out in a civilian flight from the Arakkonam Base,” he says.Tejas Mohlah, who called help for his VIT friends at the airport, says, “We had also decided to go to the nearest dry place possible or the metro station, which nonetheless was packed like sardines. “Our friends who were there told us the ticket queues ran for so long, it was taking three hours to get a ticket, and the train were running at long intervals.”18-year-old twin brothers George and Verghese, who hail from Kerala, flashed a ‘V-sign’ from the window of the Mi-14, when they were transported to Arakkonam along with other rescued students. “We were born together, and we survived together,” says George.

No secret meeting held between Modi-Nawaz in Kathmandu: Government

On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Federal Government spokesman had also rubbished reports, saying no such meeting was held during the SAARC conference in Kathmandu

Sharif- Modi

The External Affairs Ministry on Wednesday trashed reports of a secret meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of SAARC summit in Kathmandu last year.Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Vikas Swarup called the reports based on a book as completely baseless. “The Report is completely baseless. NO such meeting took place in Kathmandu during the SAARC Summit,” he said in a tweet while responding to queries on whether the meeting had taken place or not.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On Tuesday, Pakistan’s Federal Government spokesman had also rubbished reports, saying no such meeting was held during the SAARC conference in Kathmandu. Media reports quoting a book said that a year ago, Modi and Sharif held an hour-long secret meeting where the two leaders shared their constraints while agreeing they needed more time and greater political space to move forward with public engagements. Earlier in the day, the Congress sought a clarification from the government on the issue.”Did the Prime Minister at all have a meeting with Pakistan PM? If yes, then why did his government keep it secret? Was it for image? Optics? 56-inch-chest or for political deliverables?” party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi asked while talking to reporters. If it is yes, then did the Prime Minister consider the Ministry of External Affairs either incompetent or incapable as he had to engage an industrialist for the purpose, Singhvi asked.Asked for his reaction, a senior BJP leader said, “Anyone who understands the way Modi conducts his foreign affairs would realise that he believes in direct diplomacy. So, involving anyone else is almost out of the question.”

Blockade ‘risk’ to Nepalese children

Shortages of fuel, food, medicines and vaccines put more than three million infants at risk as winter begins in Nepal, the UN warns.

While Narendra Modi does a Rajiv Gandhi in Nepal, China might have the last laugh

If they are laughing at you, then it’s all over. And Nepal is. Cracking jokes at India’s, particularly Narendra Modi’s expense that is. Stand-up comedian Manoj Gajurel used to have his audience doubling up with his “positive” impersonations of Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister who made Kathmandu his first port of call in his soon-to-be overbooked foreign itinerary and the only country he has visited twice in his first eighteen months. Last month Gajurel changed his act. He has been, he says, going to their hallowed Pashupatinath Temple, where Modi had offered prayers last August, and performing the kshama puja on behalf of Modi for “putting Nepal through such hard times”.

PM Narendra Modi. AFPPM Narendra Modi. AFP

PM Narendra Modi. AFP

That Narendra Modi is doing nothing to ease Nepal’s troubles is undeniable. It’s over two months now since Nepal passed the new constitution that New Delhi so disliked that it tried to scuttle it on the very eve of its passage and showed no grace in bowing to the inevitable when faced with a fait accompli. Since then things have only gone from bad to worse. The India-Nepal border is practically closed for goods and Nepal is starving for fuel, medicines and other essential items, a crisis that will snowball into a humanitarian catastrophe now that winter is nigh; incipient border clashes are breaking out, violence outbursts are taking lives in the border areas; the UN has been witness to first-ever skirmishes between the two countries initiated by New Delhi; while at home the Modi government is maintaining a hands off policy, it’s foreign ministry officials practically saying, they didn’t listen to us, now it’s their funeral, let them deal with it.

The big mystery still remains is why. Why is the NDA government being so obdurate? Why is Narendra Modi hellbent on doing a Rajiv Gandhi in Nepal? In 1989-90, differences over the renewal of trade and transit treaties and Kathmandu’s procurement of anti-aircraft guns from China had led India to impose a 15-month embargo on goods coming to Nepal. Rajiv Gandhi, with his misadventures in Nepal and Sri Lanka, can hardly be a role model for the man who could barely bring himself to mention even Jawaharlal Nehru’s name until forced to do so with gritted teeth only to save the GST Bill.

What does India gain by pushing Nepal into the arms of an eagerly waiting China? A much stronger, more emboldened and far more ambitious China than in Rajiv Gandhi’s days? China’s offer to send oil to Nepal is only the thin end of the wedge. Already more entry points have been opened up between the two countries, soon, going by China’s track record, more roads will be built, swifter means of communication will be in place, Nepal will slide away from India’s ambit of influence.

True, geography favours India. Transit is easier, cheaper and well established between these two countries. The reason why there is a richer history between these two neighbours, closer cultural and social ties. That may also be why India is happily playing this cat and mouse game. They are waiting for Nepal to be humbled, to surrender. Probably keeping fingers crossed too that the current, unyielding Oli government will fall under its own contradictions and India will be able to dictate terms again. And the biggest test may have just begun.

Indian television channels have been blocked in Nepal since yesterday. Whether the government has strong-armed the cable operators or the cable operators have become ultra-patriotic and stopped them by popular demand, as Kathmandu claims, is of course the big question. Whatever the answer, the unfolding saga is bound to be quite nail-biting. Will the people of Nepal, already suffering from shortages of cooking medium and heating fuel and life-saving medicine, be ready to do without their daily soaps, their daily fixes of saas-bahu serials too? If yes, then India has reason to worry. The tide will have turned, Nepal’s fury against India will become inflexible, implacable. The jokes about Narendra Modi will get louder and more raucous and Beijing will have the last laugh.

Maybe that is when Narendra Modi will feel impelled to hold out the olive branch to the only other Hindu majority country in the world. As he did to Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh. But brinkmanship can hardly be the best way to run a government. Maybe it’s time someone gifted him a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People. No one likes bullies.

Indian news channels ‘switched off’ in Nepal by protestors

Amid agitation by the Joint Madhesi Front in the Himalayan nation, scores of goods laden trucks are stranded on the India-Nepal border. Madhesis have been protesting over ‘discriminatory’ seven-province model of new Constitution.

Nepalese students holding placards take part in a protest to show solidarity against the border blockade in Kathmandu, Nepal November 27, 2015.

Reuters
Nepal Cable TV operators on Sunday were forced to switch off nine Indian news channels by protesters against the unofficial ‘blockade of goods’ into the country.”We got a letter from Nepal Communist Party (Maoist) that we should switch all the Hindi or Indian channels and we had a meeting at the Federation of Nepal Cable Television. Lots of our members are being threatened, especially in districts, that if we don’t switch off the channels, they can do anything,” Sudhir Parajuli, president, federation of Nepal Cable TV operators told ANI exclusively.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> “So, we got pressure from our members as well. They said that instead of switching off Indian channels, we have decided only to switch off Indian news channel,” he added.Amid agitation by the Joint Madhesi Front in the Himalayan nation, scores of goods laden trucks are stranded on the India-Nepal border. Madhesis have been protesting over ‘discriminatory’ seven-province model of new Constitution.Earlier, expressing concern over growing ?anti- India? sentiment in Nepal, Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae had on Friday said, “We sense that this is being used for certain objective – political or otherwise.”

Madhesi protest in Nepal: Why India needs to step back a little

by Sunil Raman

The buzz among sections of Nepal’s intelligentsia is that the Modi government encouraged Madhesi protest in the Terai Region to gain electorally in Bihar elections. This might be farfetched but it goes to show the extent of distrust among the Nepali elite about India’s role in what is essentially an internal issue for a country still coming to terms with transition to a democratic setup.

In the last few days, after signing a deal with China that ended India’s monopoly over petrol/diesel/kerosene supply to Nepal the government of Prime Minister Oli signed a deal with Bangladesh to supply ATF or Aviation Turbine Fuel to the landlocked country. On 4 November, the Chinese called on Nepal government and parties to resolve the differences over the new Constitution without “outside interference”, in a veiled reference to India.

Representational image. APRepresentational image. AP

Representational image. AP

The spokesman further said that “We hope that the Nepali government and all relevant parties will bear in mind national unity, social stability and fundamental interests of people in Nepal,” asking Nepal government and other political parties to properly address their differences. “Properly resolve differences through consultations in a peaceful manner with no interference from outside, restore stability back to Nepal as soon as possible and stay committed to post disaster reconstruction and long-term development of Nepal,” she said.

In 2006, India committed a major error in judgement when it tried to support an unpopular King Gyanendra, whose legitimacy was under question after the palace massacre of 2000 that led to the death of the then king and his family. I was part of a team from BBC that covered the developments in Kathmandu and its outskirts.

People’s protest against Gyanendra was peaking, thousands of men and women were on the streets demanding an end to monarchy and to tackle that curfew was imposed for around a fortnight. Offices, schools, universities, businesses and even shops selling products for day to day living were shut. But, like revolutions in different parts of the world a time comes when people “don’t give a damn” for their safety and security. Armed policemen and troops don’t deter people who want to change the course of history.

The point I want to make is that scores of people we spoke to and interviewed in that volatile period, many of them young Nepalis, all made one important point – they questioned Indian government’s attempts to support a tottering monarchy when the country was itself a republic. I recall a constant refrain of “why does India want to tell us what to do?” among the vast number of people who marched across Kathmandu and many other big and small towns.

Much has changed politically since 2006. Today 70 per cent of Nepal population is below 35 years of age. They have an active media and people are lot more aware of local and international politics. India impacts their daily life like no other country because of open borders and for providing a lifeline to a country with no access to sea. After years of discussions and disagreements Nepal adopted finally a Constitution that proclaims it a secular democratic country, and not a theocratic Hindu state that it was until some years ago. The youth have become more aware and conscious of politics of the country and its relations with India.

The “nationalist” streak that Indian youth have begun to reflect is lot more evident among Nepali youth when it comes to New Delhi. They believe that as a sovereign country their ties with India need to be reworked to reflect Nepal’s independence. Forced to depend on India for all imports and exports because of geography these young people do not accept that as a reality to live with. They want their political leaders to review and relook at how their ties were formulated with a big neighbour for all these years.
Therefore, China’s quick response to the looming fuel crisis by promising to supply 1,000 metric tonnes of fuel on easy terms was much appreciated.

India’s foreign office mishandled developments when the Constitution was being adopted and the ill-advised move to send foreign secretary S Jaishankar to Kathmandu sent a negative message about New Delhi’s strategy towards a country that had adopted a new Constitution. Announcement of a new Constitution on September 20 was not to India’s liking. Jaishankar wanted Madhesi demands to be addressed first. But Nepal’s response was “We’ll do it our way.”

Fears of India trying to sabotage the promulgation of a Constitution was fanned by Maoist chief Prachanda who kept insisting that delay would take away “our achievements”, namely republicanism, federalism and secularism. An alliance between the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) has grabbed all key posts in government.

These developments are more than pinpricks in a relationship that has been strained for a few years. The Oli government is politically shaky but the narrative has worked against India’s interests. Many will argue that such feelings are natural among small neighbours of India, especially Nepal with whom India and not China shares civilisational ties. After all, geography cannot be changed. Nepal shares an open border of 1,868 km with five Indian states (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim) and 1,415 km with Tibet.

Nepal has no choice but live with India in harmony. Surely Nepal’s political leadership is not blind to these key geographical facts. On its part, India needs to step back somewhat. In its desire to ensure justice to a large Madhesi population it has overplayed its hand. Now that Bihar elections are over, New Delhi needs to recalibrate its relations with Kathmandu.

The writer is a former BBC journalist

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.

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’s Deputy PM Kamal Thapa to meet Sushma Swaraj; to discuss ‘border protests’

Thapa will today be meeting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and discuss issues concerning both the countries.

Nepal’s Deputy PM Kamal Thapa

Wikipedia
Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Kamal Thapa, who is on a three-day visit to India, said he would discuss massive protests in the border areas with the Indian leadership.Thapa, who is on his first visit abroad, arrived yesterday in the national capital, days after Khadga Prasad Oli took charge as Prime Minister of the country after adoption of a new constitution that has sparked massive protests in the lowlandsThapa will today be meeting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and discuss issues concerning both the countries.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said, the visit will provide both the countries with an opportunity to discuss all issues of mutual concern as well as to review and further strengthen India Nepal relations.Tension between the South Asian nations has stirred up since Nepal adopted a new constitution on September 20, upsetting southern minority groups who fear being marginalised in a new federal structure.India had rejected Nepal’s contention that New Delhi has blocked a key border trade point with Kathmandu that had resulted in acute shortage of essential goods. The violent protests have claimed over 40 lives so far. The formal talks between the government and the Joint Madhesi Front (JMF) – the main agitating group – have formally begun in Kathmandu.The Madhesi community in Nepal’s lowlands, many of whom trace their origins to India, have imposed an economic blockade to oppose the promulgation of the new constitution. They are against the splitting of Nepal into seven provinces. Protesters have blocked thousands of trucks at the border with India, the main supply route into landlocked Nepal, while the road to China is still obstructed by landslides.

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.

Has Narendra Modi’s foreign policy bubble burst?

Has Narendra Modi’s foreign policy bubble burst?

Resilient Nepal awaits return of tourists

The exuberance of Tracy and many other trekkers like her that have started arriving in Kathmandu are a clear indication back that after being hit by a devastating earthquake on April 25, a resilient Nepal is steadily and firmly trudging back to normalcy.

A Nepali citizen is seen in the historical city of Bhaktapur near Kathmandu which was among the worst hit by the earthquake

Buying essential stuff from a shop in Thamel in Kathmandu, Tracy Austin, a young traveller from Australia, was readying to go for adventure climbing when dna caught up with her. “I learnt on the Internet that Nepal has put things back in shape and conducting adventures treks and climbing. I thought to give it a try and things are looking pretty great here. I am on for a climbing expedition to Island Peak, Lobuche East and Pokalde with my two friends in a couple of days,” she said. The exuberance of Tracy and many other trekkers like her that have started arriving in Kathmandu are a clear indication back that after being hit by a devastating earthquake on April 25, a resilient Nepal is steadily and firmly trudging back to normalcy. “After hitting a massive dip in tourist inflow after the earthquake, we have touched 60% of tourist arrivals in August this year when compared to August 2014. And hope to bring the figure to 100% or more in 2016,” director general of department of tourism, G B Karkee told dna.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Many Nepalese tour operators give credit to Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), a no-profit organisation, for the quick revival of tourism in Nepal. Soon after the earthquake PATA assessed the situation in Nepal and made Tourism Rapid Recovery Taskforce- Report and Recommendations to Nepal government in on 21 June, 2015.”The report revolved around source market campaigns, organising international events, upgrading the level of services. It seems it has started paying dividends,” said Suman Pandey, chairman of PATA – Nepal chapter who also heads a travel and adventure firm. One of such events was the India-Nepal Folk Crafts Festival organized jointly by Ministry of Textiles, Government of India in association with South Asia Foundation from September 23-28, 2015 in Kathmandu. This event was an exhibition-cum-sale of craft products by artisans from India and Nepal where brand “Khadi Nepal” was launched by India ambassador, Ranjit Rae. India tourists who contribute nearly 25% to Nepal’s tourist traffic especially in pilgrim circuit of Pashupatinath, Bhaktapur and temples in Janakpur etc. is also showing signs of revival but their inflow is still to be matched with Western and Chinese tourists. “The Indians tourists were picking up. But because of the current standoff the numbers have again reduced to a trickle. We hope it ends soon,” said Krishna Chhetri, a travel agent dealing in pilgrimage circuit. Several travel and tourism firms and shops selling adventure equipment and essentials have also started feeling the crunch. “The blockade at the India-Nepal border has impacting our business. There is a sudden dip in tourist inflow,” said Narendra Tamang who deals in adventure essentials. According to Nepalese government officials, fuel stocks in Nepal have gone low with 9 days of petrol and 15 days of diesel left. The government has ordered maximum 3 litre supply to two wheelers per week, 10 litre to four wheelers per week and 40 litres of diesel supply to buses per week. “Fuel shortage will obstruct Nepal’s tourism recovery process that was built up with a lot of effort. We earnestly request the two governments to resolve the blockade and pave way for Nepal’s recovery,” said Pandey.

dna Must Reads for morning: From Modi in US to Hillary Clinton’s new emails

Narendra Modi

1. Modi in US 2015: Islamic State greatest challenge facing international community, says PM ModiPrime Minister Narendra Modi has acknowledged that the dreaded terror group Islamic State poses one of the greatest challenges facing the international community today and said there is a need to “delink terrorism from​ religion”. Read more here.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>2. India, Nepal seek way out as blockade along border adds to troublesAs the models clad in designer Khadi dresses walked past the ramp in plush Soaltee Hotel of Kathmandu on Thursday night, chief guest of the event, Indian Ambassador in Nepal Ranjit Rae kept glued to his phone, intermittently pacing in and out of the venue. Read more here. 3. No water, no power, BMC leaves Muslim areas high and dry on Eid al-AdhaResidents of Ibrahim Rahimtulla Road, Abdul Rehman Street, Mohammed Ali Road, Carnac Bunder and neighbouring areas woke up to a rude shock on the day of Eid al-Adha on Friday; the corporation pipelines were running dry and there was no power either. Efforts by political parties’ local leaders and repeated calls to civic offices fell on deaf ears as the relief eluded citizens till noon. Read more here. 4. Narendra Modi wishes former PM Manmohan Singh on his birthdayPrime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday wished former prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on his 83rd birthday. “I wish Dr. Manmohan Singh on his birthday and pray to almighty that he remains in good health and leads a long life,” tweeted Prime Minister Modi. Former prime minister and economist Dr. Manmohan Singh is celebrating his 83rd birthday on Saturday. Read more here.5. US government finds new emails Hillary Clinton did not hand overThe US Defence Department has found an email chain that Hillary Clinton did not give to the State Department, the State Department said on Friday, despite her saying she had provided all work emails from her time as secretary of state. Read more here.

Outrage over India’s ‘intervention’ in Nepal’s affairs; #BackOffIndia trends on social media

Concerned over the violence in the Terai region, India had called its envoy to Nepal, Ranjit Rae, to New Delhi for consultations yesterday where he briefed the government on the latest situation in the neighbouring country after it adopted its new fully secular and democratic Constitution.

Supporters of opposition parties burn papers symbolizing Nepals first democratic constitution during a protest against the constitution, in Kathmandu, Nepal September 21, 2015.
File Photo
Image Courtesy: Reuters
Nepal’s new constitution was promulgated on Sunday despite fierce opposition from minority groups in the southern plains whose homeland provinces will be split up under the charter. Nepal’s government had said an imperfect document is better than nothing, and it can be amended to reflect the aspirations of dissenting groups.Politicians had squabbled for seven years over the charter, but were finally galvanised to finish it by two earthquakes that killed more than 9,000 people in Nepal this year. It creates seven states in a federal system, but is opposed by groups who want to re-establish Nepal as a Hindu nation, and others who feel it is unfavourable to people in the plains.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Concerned over the violence in the Terai region, India had called its envoy to Nepal, Ranjit Rae, to New Delhi for consultations on Monday where he briefed the government on the latest situation in the neighbouring country after it adopted its new fully secular and democratic Constitution.Before leaving for India, Rae had spoken to Nepal’s prime minister to convey New Delhi’s concerns over the violent situation in several parts of the country bordering India. India has also told Nepal that issues on which there are differences should be “resolved through dialogue in an atmosphere free from violence and intimidation, and institutionalised in a manner that would enable broad-based ownership and acceptance”.The Ministry of External Affairs had also issued a statement saying, “We are deeply concerned over the incidents of violence resulting in death and injury in regions of Nepal bordering India”.”We had repeatedly cautioned the political leadership of Nepal to take urgent steps to defuse the tension in these regions. This, if done in a timely manner, could have avoided these serious developments,” it said expressed hope that initiatives will be taken by Nepal’s leadership to effectively and credibly address the causes underlying the present state of confrontation.However, on Tuesday, India faced backlash on social media with #BackOffIndia started trending. (With Agency Inputs)

New Constitution row: Use political means, desist violence, India tells Nepal

The ruling BJP, on the other hand, clarified that they were not against Nepal’s Constitution, but only voicing concerns at the violence.

India on Monday expressed concern over the incidents of violence in border regions of Nepal, following the promulgation of Constitution. A strongly-worded statement issued by the ministry of external affairs (MEA) asked Kathmandu to use political means rather resorting to force in the border regions, where population is up against the promulgation of new Constitution unveiled on Sunday.India shares 1751-km-long borders with the Himalyan nation. Indian-origin Madhesis and Tharrus, living in Tarai region feel neglected and disempowered by the new statute.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The statement reminded that Nepal leadership had been already cautioned against any such eventuality and stressed on steps to defuse the tension in the regions, bordering India. “Our freight companies and transporters have also voiced complaints about the difficulties they are facing in movement within Nepal and their security concerns, due to the prevailing unrest,” the statement added.India is particularly perturbed that flames in Terai region of southern Nepal have potential to cross border and ignite the poll bound Bihar. Sources here say, that was the primary reason for foreign secretary S Jaishankar’s visit to Kathmandu as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s special envoy.The Madhesis have been fighting for equal representation in the country’s political structure. While Tharus believe that they have not even been mentioned in the document. There have been also protest from groups against defining Nepal as a secular country, arguing that it be declared a Hindu state. “Many Nepalis, particularly the Madhesis, have been angered by a clause in the new constitution which talks of “religious and cultural freedom, with the protection of religion and culture practiced since ancient times,” says a source in government.India’s former envoy to Nepal Deb Mukarji said while New Delhi has never been an interventionist, but the situation flaring up just across the border was a cause of worry. He admitted that the new Nepal Constitution does have loopholes and doesn’t address concerns of a large population. “Whatever little I have seen and heard, I regret all assurances made during Jan Andolan and talked to all these years have been whittled down, which also include an affirmative action programme for deprived,” he said. The MEA statement further asked Nepali leadership to take urgent steps to defuse the tension and resolve issues politically rather resorting to force. “We have consistently argued that all sections of Nepal must reach a consensus on the political challenges confronting them. The issues facing Nepal are political in nature and cannot be resolved through force. We still hope that initiatives will be taken by Nepal’s leadership to effectively and credibly address the causes underlying the present state of confrontation,” the statement concluded.The ruling BJP, on the other hand, clarified that they were not against Nepal’s Constitution, but only voicing concerns at the violence. The party’s head of foreign affairs cell Shashadari Chari said the constitution unveiled is very representative and an outcome of lengthy discussions. It has also incorporated various provisions of Indian Constitution, he said.

Why India is concerned about Nepal’s constitution

The BBC’s Sanjoy Majumder on why Nepal’s adoption of a new secular constitution is being watched warily across the border by neighbouring India.

Gurgaon rape case: Nepal police arrest two people who allegedly ran trafficking racket

Kathmandu: Nepal police have arrested two persons, including the daughter-in-law of one of the Nepalese maids rescued from a Saudi diplomat’s residence in Gurgaon, who allegedly ran a trafficking racket which sold the women to Indian agents on the pretext of providing them jobs.

IBNLive

IBNLive

The two arrested on Wednesday were identified as Kalpana Pariyar, 33, a resident of Bahuni in Morang district of eastern Nepal, and Jeet Bahadur Darji, 42, who hails from Baglung district in western Nepal, police said on Thursday.

Kalpana and Jeet were involved in selling the former’s mother-in-law and another woman to Indian agents on the pretext of providing them attractive jobs.

The two maids were then supplied to Saudi diplomat Majed Hassan Ashoor, who allegedly kept them in confinement in his apartment in Gurgaon in Haryana where he and his “guests” allegedly raped them.

On 7 September, Gurgaon Police conducted a raid at the diplomat’s residence after receiving a complaint from a non-governmental organisation and rescued the two Nepalese women.

The Saudi Embassy termed the allegations as “false” and protested the police “intrusion” into the diplomat’s house saying it was against “all diplomatic conventions”.

The two maids have now been shifted to a women’s shelter in Nepal.

The Saudi Arabian diplomat, who was charged with confinement and rape of two Nepalese women, last night left India.

The Central Investigation Bureau of Nepal has filed a case in this regard in Kathmandu District Court registering a case under Human Trafficking Act.

Further investigation is underway in this matter and the police is searching other people involved in the racket, police said.

PTI

Modi urges calm in Nepal after deadly protests | Reuters

KATHMANDU Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for calm in neighbouring Nepal on Monday, a day after at least nine people were killed during protests against a proposed new constitution.

Modi, leader of Nepal’s largest donor and trading partner, “appealed to the government, all political parties and the people of Nepal to eschew violence and maintain social harmony,” during a telephone call with Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, the Indian foreign ministry said.

The rare intervention by Modi reflected India’s concerns about unrest just over its border and fears that the new constitution, to replace the interim one in place since the end of civil war in 2006, may ignore the aspirations of some minorities.

At least nine people, including seven police officers and an 18-month-old baby, were killed during Monday’s unrest in Tikapur, close to the border with India. One officer was burned to death, the government said.

The protesters, mainly from the ethnic Tharu community, oppose a plan to include their area in a larger province, and want a separate province for the southwestern plains under the new federal constitution that is supposed to be finalised this month.

The Nepali authorities imposed a curfew and mobilised the army to quell the protests. The town remained tense but quiet on Tuesday, officials said. In Gaur, another border town 80 km (50 miles) southeast of Kathmandu, police shot dead a demonstrator as protests spread to new areas, an official said.

“The political leadership of Nepal should resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue … and arrive at solutions that reflect the will and accommodate the aspirations of all citizens,” India’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The United Nation’s human rights agency urged political leaders and protesters to find a peaceful solution before violence spirals out of control.

“We urge the government of Nepal to create a climate where minority or dissenting views or beliefs are respected, and security forces only employ force as a last resort,” Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.

So far at least 13 people have died in violence related to protests over the new constitution.

(Additional reporting and editing by Douglas Busvine in New Delhi; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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

Risk of further Nepal-India quake

Scientists warn that Nepal’s devastating April earthquake failed to release all of the stress built up underground, increasing the chance of a quake further west.

All you need to know about Geeta— the girl India has promised to bring back from Pak

The story of Geeta, the speech-impaired Indian girl stuck in Pakistan for 14 years came into the limelight after the release of Salman Khan starrer Bajrangi Bhaijaan. Spearheaded by Pakistami activist Ansar Burney, the search for the family of Geeta, as she is christened by social workers, is in full swing.

Even as Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj has vowed to bring her back home and the Indian envoy has met her in Karachi, not a lot is known about the girl’s origins. Here is all that we know about Geeta so far as told by the Pakistani social workers who have taken care of her.

Geeta. Image Credit: Official Facebook page of Ansar BurneyGeeta. Image Credit: Official Facebook page of Ansar Burney

Geeta. Image Credit: Official Facebook page of Ansar Burney

* As she is unable to speak, her real name is unknown. She was named Geeta by Bilquis Edhi, one of the founders of Edhi Foundation, a well-known social welfare organisation in Pakistan. She is also called Guddi by Burney.

* The name may seem odd to be given to a girl in Pakistan but it was probably because she is a devout Hindu, according to Ansar Burney.

* Geeta has even put up colourful posters of Hindu deities, and an earthen lamp (diya) on the table and has a small temple in the shelter that she is staying at. The Pakistani shelter she is at has been very accommodating and one of the social workers Faisal Edhi even got her an idol of Ganesh from Kathmandu, according to a quote in the Indian Express.

* She also offers namaaz, observes fasts during the Muslim holy month of Ramzan but nobody has tried to convert her to Islam, Edhi has added.

* Geeta eats only vegetarian food.

*She is 22 years old now and was 11 when was spotted by the Pakistan Rangers in Lahore after she strayed across the border in 2003.

* She is unable to hear or talk but can communicate by writing in Hindi and has written several things in her journal. She has written in her journal: “Maa Baap Bahut Yaad Aate Hain (I really miss my parents), according to NDTV.

* The number 193 seems to be an important number associated with her family’s whereabouts as she writes it repeatedly while asked for her address. Earlier, she has pointed out to Telangana and Jharkand on the Indian map suggesting that’s where she may hail from.

*Burney has also said that Geeta has mentioned she has seven brothers & four sisters back home.

* While the search for Geeta’s family made no headway,  activists persuaded her to begin a new life in Pakistan with a Hindu boy, which she refused and made it clear she will only get married once she returns home, according to India Today.

(With agency inputs)

Landslide near Nepal’s popular Annapurna trek route kills 30 | Reuters

LUMLE, Nepal Landslides triggered by torrential rain in Nepal swept through villages on Thursday, killing at least 30 people close to the nation’s most popular trekking circuit, home ministry officials said.

The landslides struck the villages near the resort town of Pokhara, 125 km (77 miles) west of Kathmandu shortly after midnight.

In the village of Lumle about half of the homes were buried or destroyed by a torrent of mud and rocks.

“I heard a big demonic sound, I thought it was an earthquake,” said Kabi Ram B.K., a 64-year-old farmer, whose daughter and granddaughter were killed when the landslide smashed into their home.

Soldiers and policemen, working in heavy rain, used shovels and food bowls to search for nine missing villagers because they did not have any mechanical gear to help with the rescue.

At least 13 bodies recovered from the village were laid out on straw matting, covered by a plastic sheet and rug to protect them from the rain.

Lumle is about 15 km (9 miles) from the start of the Annapurna Circuit, a hiking route around the world’s 10th tallest mountain that attracts around 100,000 tourists a year.

Two powerful earthquakes in Nepal this year that killed almost 9,000 people have raised the risk of landslides across the mountainous country during the rainy season, which lasts from June to September.

Heavy monsoon rains have also caused flooding and fatalities across northern India in recent days.

(Reporting by Aisling Curtis in New Delhi, Jatindra Dash in Bhubaneswar. Editing by Andrew MacAskill and Robert Birsel)

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

Who is Yakub Memon: Here’s all you need to know about the 1993 Mumbai blasts convict

The lone death convict in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, Yakub Memon, was executed in the Nagpur Central jail today.

Yakub Memon in a file photo. Ibnlive

Yakub Memon in a file photo. Ibnlive

Yakub allegedly handled his brother Tiger Memon’s funds and was convicted on charges of having funded the training of 15 youths who were sent to Pakistan to learn the handling of arms and ammunition. He was also accused of funding the escape of the Memon family following the blasts in  the financial capital of India.

The attacks were allegedly carried out by one of India’s most wanted men, Dawood Ibrahim, and his accomplice Tiger Memon to avenge Muslim deaths during the Hindu-Muslim riots that had rocked Mumbai a few months earlier.

Tiger was awarded the death penalty by a Tada (Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act) court on 27 July, 2007. He, however , is still in Pakistan and India is still clueless about the whereabouts of Dawood Ibrahim.

Here’s all you need to know about Yakub Memon, his arrest and subsequent conviction.

Who is Yakub Memon? 

Once honoured as the best chartered accountant in the Memon community, Yaqub Abdul Razzak Memon, was perhaps the most high-profile convict in the March 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.

Yakub, the third of six sons of the Abdul Razzak Memon, was the most highly-educated in the Memon family. He studied in an English medium school, later acquired a B.Com degree and became a qualified chartered accountant in 1990.

A year later, he set up “Mehta & Memon Associates” along with a childhood friend Chetan Mehta. A year later, they parted ways and Memon set up his independent firm, “AR & Sons”, in memory of his father. This firm proved so successful that he was conferred the Best CA Award by the Memon community in Mumbai. He diversified into exports and set up a company, Tejrath International, to export meat and meat products to the Gulf and Middle East. In a very short period, Memon became a financial success and invested in six flats in the Al-Hussaini Building in Mahim, close to the famous Mahim Dargah.

The accused No. 1 in the Mumbai serial blasts, Menon’s role was proved for being part of the conspiracy, financing the operation through a co-accused Mulchand Shah and his firms, arranging air tickets to fly to Dubai and then Pakistan for six other accused in the case.

The arrest

Yakub Memon fled with his entire family on 10 March, 1993, two days before the Mumbai blasts.

He reportedly met his family lawyer in Kathmandu in July 1994. Upon learning that he was unlikely to receive any mercy if he surrendered to Indian authorities, he prepared to leave for Karachi, where he had been living under house arrest for a year.

After being caught with multiple passports at the Kathmandu airport in July 1994, Yakub was officially arrested on the morning of 5 August 1994, inexplicably from the New Delhi railway station. Reports around the time say that Yakub had struck a deal with CBI and was expecting to be shown mercy during his trial.

The trial

Upon surrender, Yakub maintained that he was innocent and denied knowledge of the Mumbai blasts. In an interview with NewsTrack after Memon returned to India,  he revealed that he only came to know about the conspiracy and the blasts after reaching Pakistan.

Yakub was sentenced to death on 27 July, 2007 by Justice P. D. Kode of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court.

On hearing the judgment, Yaqub Memon, generally a mild-mannered man, in an emotional outburst had said loudly, “Forgive this man Lord for he doesn’t know what he does.”

The Charges

The charges brought upon him were:

  1. Criminal Conspiracy
  2. Aiding and abetting and felicitating a terrorist act
  3. Illegal possession and transportation of arms and ammunition
  4. Possessing explosives with intent to endanger lives

The follow-up

On 21 March 2013, Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of Yakub Memon, and called him  the mastermind of terror strike

President Pranab Mukherjee, on 21 May 2014, rejected the mercy plea of Memon, following recommendations of the Maharashtra government and the Home Ministry that the mercy petition of Memon be rejected.

Memon will be the only person hanged in this case. Earlier, the death penalty awarded by a special Tada court to 10 others, who had planted RDX explosives-laden vehicles at various places in Mumbai, had been commuted to life term by distinguishing their roles from that of Memon.

With inputs from Agencies

Did Yakub Memon make a mistake by trusting Indian investigators?

Whether the Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon finally walks to the gallows or not, the gnawing question that will continue to stare us in the face is not if he ever participated in the conspiracy and its execution, but if the Indian investigating agencies betrayed him and used his own evidence to hang him.

The moot point is certainly not about law, but about ethics. If the evidence, even voluntarily submitted by him, proves his criminality, he deserves punishment. But if he was duped into a sense of safety, it was unethical because it would have made him complacent and thereby denied himself a fair shot at the legal avenues. If he incriminated himself, believing that the investigators will take care of him, he himself has spoiled his legal chances. This is both a travesty and miscarriage of justice.

The only television interview, that he gave to India Today’s Madhu Trehan while in CBI custody, after his return from Pakistan provides the earliest evidence of Yakub dropping his guard and being exploited. It was obviously a set up – an accused in custody cannot have a sit-down interview without the active support of the investigating agency, and the expectation of some gain. Moreover, an accused in custody, that too charged with a heinous crime, should be a complete fool to spill the beans and implicate himself before a television camera, if he is not promised some protection.

Yakub Memon. IBN Live.Yakub Memon. IBN Live.

Yakub Memon. IBN Live.

In the interview, he lays bare everything – how his brother and Pakistan’s ISI masterminded the blasts, who were the people involved, how the Memon family fled to Pakistan and was rehabilitated, and the exact places where they stayed – while stating that he was not party to the crime, but got trapped because of his brother. The interviewer shows a little bit of aggression, expressing disbelief in his claim of innocence, but the man helplessly gulps it down because he has no choice. What played out in future was the same experience that he probably would have felt during the interview – everyone loved the sensational and specific details of his disclosure, but didn’t want to buy the adjunct story of his innocence. In hindsight, it was the first sign of a let down that was in waiting.

Was it this apparently unethical pact, which the CBI never owned up, that sealed Memon’s fate? Media reports in 2006 and 2007  vividly described how incredulous Yakub was, when he realised that things were going wrong in court. In 2006, he was hysterical when his conviction was announced indicating that he hadn’t expected it. “You are making good people terrorists while people who are really doing the bombings are making you look like fools,” he reportedly shouted, adding that he should have paid heed to his brother, Tiger Memon. In 2007, when his death sentence was announced, he nearly lost it. Reportedly, he screamed: “My lord, forgive this man for he does not know what he is doing… I don’t want to remain in this court any longer.”

The details in the letter of B Raman former senior RAW official, published by Rediff two years after his death, clearly indicate that Yakub has reasons to feel betrayed because there were “mitigating circumstances” that the prosecution kept away from the court. In fact, these “circumstances” – which meant active cooperation of Yakub with the investigation – helped the agencies crack the case, nail the involvement of the ISI, and even bring other members of the Memon family to stand trial in India. Raman also disclosed that it was indeed in Kathmandu where Yakub was picked up, as the latter himself claimed, and old Delhi was only the place where his arrest was officially recorded.

“I was disturbed to notice that some mitigating circumstances in the case of Yakub Memon and some other members of the family were probably not brought to the notice of the court by the prosecution and that the prosecution did not suggest to the court that these circumstances should be taken into consideration while deciding on the punishment to be awarded to them. In their eagerness to obtain the death penalty, the fact that there were mitigating circumstances do not appear to have been highlighted,” Raman wrote in his letter.

Other than Raman’s posthumous letter, nobody from the agencies acknowledges the “mitigating circumstances”, and that prepared Yakub’s death-trap. The agencies can certainly feel morally right in deceiving a “criminal” and feel good that its strategy worked, although they will never own up such a story.

Instead, all that they will admit is what Shantanu Sen, the CBI official who headed the special task force that investigated the Mumbai blast, said on NDTV on Tuesday. He said the inducement to Yakub was their safety in India and justice.

Senior journalist Maseeh Rahman, who had exclusive access to the Yakub story, thanks to a senior unnamed CBI official, contests Sen’s argument and corroborates Raman’s point of “mitigating circumstances”. According to him, Yakub brought with him a cache of materials, including video and audio clips that he recorded at great personal risk, to help the investigators complete their task. But in court, all this evidence was used to secure for him the death sentence. “Overnight, the Memons were dog meat,” he wrote in this Indian Express article. “When an individual betrays your trust, you have the option of a legal remedy. But when a state displays bad faith, what do you do?,” he asks.

The versions of Raman and Rahman prove beyond reasonable doubt that Yakub returned to India and brought his family back on some assurance, which cannot be mere “justice” as Sen claimed, because justice is an inalienable right of an individual. There is a clear miscarriage of justice that goes unnoticed in this case – that Yakub perhaps didn’t take his legal defence seriously till his conviction and sentencing because he was already promised some leniency.

Couldn’t he have escaped the gallows had he not incriminated himself by voluntarily providing crucial evidence that he himself compiled, and instead focussed on a competent legal defence? The apparent betrayal is not only about reneging on a promise, but also preventing one from fully exploiting the legal recourse. Sounds diabolic, doesn’t it?

Late RAW official B Raman wanted leniency for Yakub Memon

B Raman, who retired as Additional Secretary in 1994 and was in-charge of counter-terrorism, had written an article for publication containing this view but stopped it from seeing the light of the day following an after thought.

dna Research & Archives
A late top official of RAW had favoured clemency for death row convict in the 1993 Mumbai blast case Yakub Memon on the ground that he had cooperated with investigating agencies and does not deserve to be hanged.B Raman, who retired as Additional Secretary in 1994 and was in-charge of counter-terrorism, had written an article for publication containing this view but stopped it from seeing the light of the day following an after thought.But the article has now been published on ‘Rediff.com’ website which talks about Memon being picked up in Nepal and his subsequent formal arrest at Old Delhi railway station by the CBI.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Chennai-based B S Raghavan, brother of the late Raman, said “everything that has been published is correct and he (Raman) had written it”.Raman, who passed away in 2013, had written about a “moral dilemma” in his mind ever since he had read about the sentencing of Memon to death by the court in 2006.”There is not an iota of doubt about the involvement of Yakub and other members of the family in the conspiracy and their cooperation with the ISI till July 1994. In normal circumstances, Yakub would have deserved the death penalty if one only took into consideration his conduct and role before July 1994. But if one also takes into consideration his conduct and role after he was informally picked up in Kathmandu, there is a strong case for having second thoughts about the suitability of the death penalty in the subsequent stages of the case,” said the article which has been published after taking permission from his brother.The writer, who has written a book “The Kaoboys of RAW”, spoke about many questions in his mind before writing the article but said “ultimately, I decided to write this in the belief that it is important to prevent a person, who in my view does not deserve to be hanged, from going to the gallows.”According to him, Yakub had cooperated with the probe agencies and assisted them by persuading some other members of the Memon family to flee from the protection of the ISI in Karachi to Dubai and surrender to the Indian authorities.”The cooperation of Yakub with the investigating agencies after he was picked up informally in Kathmandu and his role in persuading some other members of the family to come out of Pakistan and surrender constitute, in my view, a strong mitigating circumstance to be taken into consideration while considering whether the death penalty should be implemented,” he had argued in his article. Raman said he was disturbed to notice that some mitigating circumstances in the case of Yakub Memon and some other members of the family were probably not brought to the notice of the court by the prosecution and that the prosecution did not suggest to the court that these circumstances should be taken into consideration while deciding on the punishment to be awarded to them.”In their eagerness to obtain the death penalty, the fact that there were mitigating circumstances do not appear to have been highlighted,” he said.About his arrest part, Raman wrote that in July 1994, some weeks before his retirement, he was informally picked up in Kathmandu, with the help of the Nepal police, driven across Nepal to a town in Indian territory, flown to Delhi by an aircraft of the Aviation Research Centre and formally arrested in Old Delhi by the investigating authorities and taken into custody for interrogation.”The entire operation was coordinated by me,” he said.Yakub was in Kathmandu to consult a lawyer about surrendering before the court but was advised against it and asked to return to Pakistan.”Before he could board the flight to Karachi, he was picked up by the Nepal police on suspicion, identified and rapidly moved to India,” he said.

A plea for leniency from the grave: Deceased RAW official’s op-ed makes a case for Yakub Memon

For Yakub Memon, the lone convict sentenced to death in the 1993 serial Mumbai blasts case, the Supreme Court has introduced what may be a final roadblock before his execution scheduled for 30 July. It on Friday agreed to hear his plea again on 27 July.

The apex court’s decision comes even as there are multiple and rising views questioning the death sentence awarded to the former chartered accountant. And perhaps the most notable voice to now join the chorus of opposition is that of former Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) official, B Raman, who passed away in 2013.

The former bureaucrat, who was vocal in his views on foreign policy and terrorism post-retirement, had reportedly written a critical piece for Rediff in 2007 when Memon was sentenced to death by a Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (Tada) court. More importantly, in it, Raman confirms Memon’s version of the events that led to his arrest.

Ibnlive imageIbnlive image

Ibnlive image

The op-ed confirms that Memon was indeed arrested in Kathmandu — as he has long claimed — even as official records state that he was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation in New Delhi. Raman also credits Memon with ensuring the return of the rest of his family to India via Dubai. Almost all members of the Memon family faced trial in the case. Yakub, who expected leniency for his cooperation, instead received the harshest punishment after being held guilty of being a part of the conspiracy to carry out the blasts that killed over 250 people.

But after sending the piece to the publication, Rediff’s Sheela Bhatt says that Raman asked that the piece be held back in order to prevent it from influencing the trial against other accused persons in the case. It stayed that way until she got permission from Raman’s brother to publish it now.

In his piece, Raman notes that in the course of his work at the counter-terrorism division of RAW between 1993 and 1994, he had dealt with the external aspects of the case. He describes in detail how Yakub had come to Kathmandu to meet a relative and lawyer when he was nabbed at the airport. The relative and lawyer, incidentally, had advised Yakub to stay in Pakistan.

The op-ed also also highlights key mitigating factors that the prosecution had failed to highlight before the Tada court that sentenced the former chartered accountant to death.

“The cooperation of Yakub with the investigating agencies after he was picked up informally in Kathmandu and his role in persuading some other members of the family to come out of Pakistan and surrender constitute, in my view, a strong mitigating circumstance to be taken into consideration while considering whether the death penalty should be implemented,” he noted in his piece.

Raman had also said that he was ‘disturbed’ by the fact that the prosecution had instead sought the death penalty for Yakub in the trial court which was then upheld by the Supreme Court.

In normal circumstances, Yakub would have deserved the death penalty if one only took into consideration his conduct and role before July 1994. But if one also takes into consideration his conduct and role after he was informally picked up in Kathmandu, there is a strong case for having second thoughts about the suitability of the death penalty in the subsequent stages of the case,” he noted. (Read the complete piece here)

It is to be noted that the Supreme Court judgement which dismissed Yakub’s plea to commute his death sentence did consider the fact that he had co-operated with investigators, but rejected it as a mitigating factor to overturn the sentence.

The apex court, while upholding the death penalty for Yakub, had said that as per the evidence on record, the former chartered accountant had been a prime conspirator in carrying out the blasts in 1993 and was heading the operation in the absence of Tiger Memon.

“We are mindful of the fact that there is no direct act attributed to A-1 (Yakub) as far as parking of the explosives filled vehicle in different localities are concerned. But we should recollect, that if, not for the planning of conspirators for which A-1 (Yakub) was a party too, the explosives and ammunition required for the execution wouldn’t have entered into our country and as a consequence the execution itself wouldn’t have materialized,” the court noted.

However, while the Supreme Court may have chosen to ignore the argument, Raman’s case presents an interesting point of debate. More so, as there’s an approver in the case who has been exonerated of all culpability due to his complete co-operation with the investigating team. The approver, best known as Badshah Khan after being renamed in S Hussain Zaidi’s book Black Friday, was a part of the conspiracy and had undergone training in Pakistan and even surveyed the sites that were to be bombed. Arrested after the blasts, he became an approver in the case in exchange for the case being dropped against him. Certainly, the refusal to offer Yakub at least some leniency raises the question of double standards.

The execution of Yakub has been a contentious issue especially given he returned to India to face prosecution, the only person who is said to have been directly linked with the conspiracy to do so. A theory that even Yakub had put before the Supreme Court was the fact that the prosecution was seeking the harshest possible punishment for him only because authorities had failed to get their hands on his brother and Dawood Ibrahim.

It remains to be seen as to whether Yakub’s last bid to stave off the execution on 27 July will be successful. But it is ironic indeed that one of the strongest arguments he can now wield will be the words of a dead RAW official.

Yakub Memon will be hanged: Did the 1993 Mumbai blasts convict pay for being Tiger’s brother?

(Editor’s note: This article was originally published on 22 March, 2013. It is being republished in light of the Supreme Court rejecting Yakub Memon’s curative petition. Memon will be hanged on 30 July.)

Few of the 100 persons convicted in the 1993 serial blasts case reacted like Yakub Memon when he heard the verdict of the trial court. Often mildly contemptuous but always well mannered in court, the younger brother of the prime accused in the case Tiger Memon, exploded when he heard the death sentence shouting at the judge, “Oh Lord, forgive this man for he knows not what he does.”

Dressed in a white shirt and jeans, Memon demanded that he be taken out of the court, a wish that was granted with him being accosted out by police personnel. The emotional outburst was quite unlike Yakub, who was largely on cordial terms with everyone in the court including journalists, once even humourously remarking that one of them looked like a school student.

For a chartered accountant, who went from being a family man wanting to establish his family’s innocence to becoming the lone conspirator to be caught alive, Yakub’s rage perhaps wasn’t misplaced.

Yakub, who was perhaps the most suave member of the Memon family and also the most educated, finds himself on death row today after the Supreme Court upheld the sentence of the trial court. Yakub, who owned an export firm allegedly handled his brother, gangster Tiger Memon’s, funds. He was accused of having funded the training of 15 youths who were sent to Pakistan for training in the use of arms and ammunition and funding the escape of the family following the blasts.

Image from IBN-LiveImage from IBN-Live

Yakub Memon in this file photo. Image from IBN-Live

In his acclaimed book on the 1993 blasts and the investigations, Black Friday, author Hussain Zaidi noted that after the family had bolted from Mumbai, Yakub believed that their only hope was to clear their name and the impending birth of his daughter only exacerbated his desire to return:

Yaqub realised that for his family, there would never be true freedom again. There were two choices before him: he could live with this police imprisonment by Pakistan, or he could go back to India, face a trial and try to clear his name. He decided that the best option for him was to try to make a deal with the Indian government and convince them that the rest of the Memon family was innocent. It was better to try to go back to their old lives rather than live at the mercy of the Pakistan authorities, as tales of the intelligence services killing off those who had outlived their usefulness were legion. He was especially concerned about his parents, who were now old and deserved better, and for his wife Raheen who was due to deliver their child soon. He did not want his child to live his whole life under the shadow of fear.

After reportedly meeting with a family lawyer in Kathmandu in July 1994, Yakub was set to return to Karachi after being told that he was unlikely to get much mercy if he did surrender to Indian authorities. But his being caught with multiple passports at the Kathmandu airport set off a chain of events that resulted in all the other members of the Memon family also being brought to India.

His arrest remains controversial. Officially Yakub was arrested on the morning of 5 August 1994, inexplicably from the New Delhi railway station, far away from Pakistan or Dubai where the Memon family was said to be in hiding.

Even the court while convicting him, said it wasn’t entirely impressed with the CBI’s claims that they caught him in the unlikely location. “…in real life a person cannot be said to have appeared to such a place (Delhi) from the air. It is also absurd that the investigating agency would not have carried out the investigation regarding the said aspect,” the judge noted.

The extent of the complicity of Yusuf, his sister-in-law Rubeena, brothers Yusuf and Essa in the conspiracy or whether they are merely paying for being from the same family as Tiger Memon, is something they can answer best. But no matter the extent of their guilt, they will face the punishment that Tiger Memon managed to escape by eluding Indian authorities.

India reaffirms commitment to reconstruction efforts in Nepal

India had pledged US $1 billion in assistance to Nepal for its reconstruction programme which is over and above India’s existing developmental assistance

Nepal rescue work
Agencies
Reuters
Nepal’s former Prime Minister and chief of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Prachanda today met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who reaffirmed India’s unwavering commitment to the massive reconstruction efforts in the quake-battered country. Last month, India had pledged US $1 billion in assistance to Nepal for its reconstruction programme which is over and above India’s existing developmental assistance of another US $1 billion over the next five years. In the meeting, Swaraj conveyed India’s strong commitment to Nepal’s reconstruction process, sources said. Issues relating to Nepal’s Constitution also figured in the meeting. India has been favouring early finalisation of the Constitution.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Prachanda, once an India baiter, has softened his stance towards the country in recent years. He had earlier frequently attacked India and accused New Delhi of interfering in Nepal’s affairs and “dictating” to its leadership. CPN (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, arrived here yesterday on a seven-day visit. Four major political parties — Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, UCPN-Maoist and Madhesi Peoples Forum Democratic — that together 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 in the Constituent Assembly last week and is being deliberated upon. The draft Constitution will then be published in the Nepal Gazette for discussion by the people before its promulgation. However, some Madhesi (areas in the foothills close to Indo-Nepal border) parties and fringe parties are opposing the process, saying the proposed Constitution has failed to address their issues.Swaraj, who had visited Kathmandu last month for an international donors’ conference in the wake of the earthquake, had met the entire spectrum of Nepalese leadership, including Prachanda and encouraged them to finalise the the Constitution at the earliest. Also Read: India assures full support to Nepal in reconstruction efforts

Nepal secures millions in quake aid

India pledges $1 billion (£640m) in aid for Nepal’s earthquake reconstruction efforts, while China says it will provide about $500 million.

Aid-dependent Nepal says needs $6.6 billion for post-quake rebuilding | Reuters

KATHMANDU Earthquake-battered Nepal will ask international donors to support a reconstruction plans that is expected to cost $6.6 billion over five years, the government said on Saturday.

Two quakes on April 25 and May 12 killed 8,787 people and destroyed more than 500,000 homes, affecting 2.8 million of the Himalayan nation’s 28 million people.

Losses to the economy from Nepal’s worst disaster on record stand at $7 billion, including from tourism, the government said in a Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report.

Suman Prasad Sharma, a senior finance ministry official, said 36 countries and 24 donor agencies had been invited to a conference on June 25 to pledge support for reconstruction.

“We have expectations of a very handsome and good support from our donors during the conference,” Sharma said at a function in Kathmandu. Currently, Nepal gets two-thirds of the cost of its economic development in international aid.

Government officials said some donors who cannot pledge more aid could still help Nepal by writing off debt the country owes or delaying repayment schedules. Nepal does not have commercial borrowings from international lending agencies.

Concessional loans mainly from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank account for 18 percent of Nepal’s gross domestic product, according to the officials. The government spends $300 million in debt repayment every year.

Local donors say post-disaster reconstruction must be more accountable in a country that ranked 126 of 176 nations surveyed in Transparency International’s corruption perception index in 2014, compared with 116 a year earlier.

Nepal’s annual economic growth is expected to slow down to 3.04 percent, the lowest in eight years, from 4.6 percent estimated earlier, according to its statistics bureau, due to the impact of the earthquakes on tourism and infrastructure.

One in every four Nepalis lives on a daily income of less than $1.25.

The quakes have also set back Nepal’s efforts to fight poverty by increasing the number of poor by 700,000 to 7.78 million, according to Govind Raj Pokharel, vice chairman of the National Planning Commission.

(Editing by Malini Menon and Mark Heinrich)

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Nepal earthquake: Kathmandu welcomes and thanks India for rescue operations, says UN

United Nations: A top UN official has lauded India’s first response and reconstruction assistance to Nepal following a devastating earthquake in April that killed nearly 9,000 people, saying the help has been welcomed by Kathmandu.

“India and China are very very present in the reconstruction effort. We have seen the Indian armed forces providing the first response,” UN Development Programme Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Policy and Programme Support Magdy Martínez-Solimán told reporters during a briefing about his mission to areas of devastation in Nepal and “daunting challenges.”

He said the Nepali airport was “literally occupied” by the Indian military aircraft and helicopters that provided support to the Nepalese armed forces after the April 25 temblor.

Reuters image.Reuters image.

Reuters image.

India’s help has “been very welcome” by Nepal, he said.

The first flight from India was dispatched with relief material within four hours of the quake and there were nonstop sorties of aircraft carrying 550 tonnes of relief material.

The Indian Army operated 13 helicopters from Kathmandu and Pokhara and 16 teams of the National Disaster Reaction Force, comprising over 700 trained personnel, were deployed.

Additionaly, 18 army engineering team were deployed and the Indian Army had set up three field hospitals and the Air Force deployed a rapid action team.

The senior UN development official drew attention to the post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction needs of more than 500,000 homes and cultural heritage sites in the rural areas.

Martínez-Solimán said the “good news” is that large infrastructure structures such as the main airport, dams, communications and electricity networks had largely survived the twin earthquakes that hit Nepal.

He said an official assessment of the damage is underway and would be ready by early July.

He described “immense” damage to homes in rural areas, as well as to cultural and historical heritage such as temples, upon which Nepal’s economy depends.

The UNDP official said his agency estimated that USD175 million was needed to reconstruct the homes, which reflected a solid case for “building back better.”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, about 2.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance with over 860,000 people in immediate need due to loss of shelter, limited road access and poverty.

The total number of casualties now stands at 8,669 with 384 people still missing, OCHA said.

The UNDP official said that the Chinese help in rescue and relief efforts has also been appreciated.

Martínez-Solimá’s visit was part of UNDP’s push to hash out a recovery and reconstruction plan for Nepal that protects and restores infrastructure, services and livelihoods, even as immediate efforts to meet people’s most basic needs continue.

Meanwhile, a month after the first of the two earthquakes hit Nepal, the UN Children’s Fund warned some 70,000 children are at risk of malnutrition and require urgent support, including 15,000 children in 14 of the worst-hit districts who need therapeutic foods –- like nutrient-rich peanut paste -– for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

UNICEF’s Representative in Nepal Tomoo Hozumi said in a statement that the agency is working “double speed with our partners to provide urgent feeding and care to protect the lives of these children and to build their resistance against diseases, especially water-borne diseases, during the upcoming monsoon season.”

UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nepal Jamie McGoldrick, said “substantial progress” to reach the survivors has been made and “considering the conditions and complexities, we are now well-positioned to assist all the affected communities.”

The World Food Programme said nearly 2 million people have received food assistance and a new phase of response dubbed ‘Operation Mountain Express’ is underway to reach people in high-altitude villages.

The coming monsoon season in Nepal is adding further urgency to relief operations because heavy rains expected from June will curtail access to remote rural areas.

PTI

Nepalese river blocked by landslide flowing again | Reuters

KATHMANDU A river dammed up by a huge landslide in Nepal’s northwest has begun flowing again but the risks of flash floods are not over yet, police said on Sunday.

The landslide at Ramche village in Myagdi district, about 140 km (90 miles) northwest of Kathmandu, struck on Saturday night and blocked the Kali Gandaki river, triggering fears that a large volume of water would build up and then burst through, causing floods downstream that could reach as far as India.

“The river has started overflowing the dam. The water build-up is no more rising,” police official Kamal Singh Bam told Reuters.

“We think it will not breach the dam suddenly and cause downstream floods. But the risk for that is not totally out yet,” he said.

Earlier the authorities asked thousands of downstream villagers to move to safer areas amid concerns that the river could bring floods in the districts of Parbat, Syangja, Gulmi, Palpa, Nawalparasi and Chitwan.

The river flows into India where it is known as the Gandak.

A big earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, triggering numerous landslides and avalanches and killing more than 8,000 people. A second quake hit the mountainous country on May 12, killing scores.

Myagdi district administrator Tek Bahadur K.C. said the landslide had created a 150 metre-high dam and the water build- up spread about three kilometres.

“We had already moved 123 people in the area to safe places fearing landslides as the mountain had developed cracks in the earthquake,” he said.

“This is why there is no human casualty even in such a massive landslide that has destroyed part of a dirt road connecting the nearby areas,” K.C. said.

In August last year a massive landslide blocked the Sunkoshi river in northeast Nepal killing more than 150 people and causing fears of flooding as far away as the eastern Indian state of Bihar, where thousands of people were evacuated.

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Greg Mahlich)

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Strong aftershock hits Nepal, near Kathmandu – USGS | Reuters

REUTERS – A magnitude 5.7 earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday, about 76 km east south east of the capital Kathmandu, at a shallow depth of 10 km, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck on April 25, killing more than 8,000 people and there have been a series of aftershocks since then.

(Editing by David Clarke)

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Eight bodies recovered from wreckage of US helicopter in Nepal

Six US marines and two Nepali soldiers were on the helicopter when it went missing while distributing aid on Tuesday, the day a strong aftershock hit Nepal.

A UH-1Y Huey takes off for a search and rescue mission from the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal May 13, 2015.

The bodies of eight soldiers have been recovered from the wreckage of a US military helicopter lost on an earthquake relief mission in Nepal high on a mountainside, Nepali officials said on Saturday.The remains would soon be transferred to Kathmandu, Jagadish Pokharel, a spokesman for the Nepali army said.Six US marines and two Nepali soldiers were on the helicopter when it went missing while distributing aid on Tuesday, the day a strong aftershock hit Nepal.The crew had been heard over the radio saying the aircraft was experiencing a fuel problem.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Together we mourn as our nation and the Federal Republic of Nepal have lost eight courageous men,” said Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, commander of the US Pacific Command.”Our thoughts and prayers are with the families.”The helicopter was assisting with relief operations in the Himalayan state after it was hit by a big earthquake last month that killed more than 8,000 people, while hundreds of thousands of buildings have been damaged.The Huey, a helicopter dating back to the Vietnam War era, was completely destroyed, Nepal’s top defence ministry official said.After a three-day search crash debris was found 8 miles (13 km) north of the town of Charikot near dense forest and rugged terrain at an altitude of 11,200 ft (3,400 m).

Live: 68 dead as new earthquake hits shattered Nepal, spreads fear and misery

May 13, 2015

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An earthquake measuring 7.3 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)

Rescue to resume after Nepal quake

Rescue work is to resume after the latest deadly earthquake in Nepal, as thousands of scared residents spend the night in the open.

After fresh Nepal earthquake, PM Modi directs authorities to be on alert for relief ops

New Delhi: With a major earthquake shaking parts of India on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took stock of the situation and directed all authorities concerned to be on alert for rescue and relief operations as required.

“PM took stock of the situation following the fresh major earthquake felt in Nepal and parts of India, at a high-level meeting,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

“PM directed all concerned authorities to be on alert for carrying out rescue and relief operations, as required,” it added.

A major earthquake measuring 7.3 on richter scale epicentred in Nepal shook several parts in North and East India including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, causing panic among people, less than three weeks after the region was hit by a devastating temblor.

The quake occurred at 12:35 PM and epicentred some 70 kilometres east of Kathmandu at a depth of 18.5 kilometres, Indian Meteorological Department said.

It was followed by three aftershocks of 6.2, 5.4 and 4.8 on richter scale. The 25th April earthquake which measured 7.9 on richter scale had claimed over 8,000 lives in Nepal. Nearly 80 people were also killed in India, mostly in Bihar, due to the
temblor.

PTI

Major earthquake strikes Nepal

A magnitude 7.4 earthquake strikes eastern Nepal, two weeks after a devastating earthquake that killed more than 8,000 people, the USGS says.

Search for bodies in Nepal village suspended due to avalanches | Reuters

KATHMANDU The search for missing trekkers, guides and residents feared buried in Nepal village by a massive landslide and avalanche triggered by last month’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake has been suspended due to bad weather, officials said on Sunday.

The suspension of the search in Langtang underscores the challenging conditions facing rescuers, soldiers and aid workers two weeks after the April 25 quake struck, killing at least 7,913 people and injuring more than 17,800.

“Fresh avalanches are hitting the area continuously,” Gautam Rimal, a district official, told Reuters. “Rescuers who were searching for bodies have now moved to safe places.”

Twenty bodies were recovered on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths in Langtang to 120. Two of the bodies, however, were almost immediately buried again in a new avalanche, Rimal said.

Large swaths of remote, hard-to-access locations such as Langtang, 60 km (35 miles) north of the capital Kathmandu, were devastated in the earthquake, and aid agencies say many places have yet to be reached to assess the damage or deliver relief supplies.

Officials remained unsure how many people were in Langtang village, in the heart of a popular trekking and climbing area, when the earthquake and landslide struck. Residents have said that as many as 180 people may still be buried under the snow.

Rimal said the search in Langtang would resume once the weather cleared and daily avalanches stop.

The bodies of nine foreigners killed in Langtang have been sent to Kathmandu, and bodies of residents have been handed over to relatives.

(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Writing by Krista Mahr; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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

Decision to ask foreign rescue workers to leave not directed at India, says Nepal

New Delhi: Quake-struck Nepal on Monday clarified to India that its decision to ask foreign rescue personnel to leave was not directed at it but encompassed all other 33 countries present in the Himalayan nation which was now moving into next phase — rehabilitation.

Underlining that his country was thankful to India for responding within “6-7” hours and saving lives following the devastating earthquake, Nepal Ambassador in New Delhi Deep Kumar Upadhyay indicated that India will remain engaged in the rehabilitation process.

Representational image. ReutersRepresentational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

He said Nepal Army, police and other local organizations had expertise to handle the situation but lacked equipment.

“We have to thank the Indian government since within 6-7 hours of time, a flight reached Kathmandu with all the necessary equipment. It helped many people survive,” he said.

He asked the media to take the situation very positively and added that rescue work in Nepal was about to be completed.

“This (rescue) is the first phase. Now we have to clear all the debris also. Kathmandu is a monumental city… Nepal army is coordinating all these things. They are the experts and if they need any kind of equipment, personnel, they will make their request and government will do accordingly,” he said emerging from his meeting with Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar.

Nepal’s decision asking foreign rescue workers to leave had led to speculation that it was directed at India.

“Not not all. Please be positive,” he said when asked if Nepal was upset with India.

Pointing out that Jaishankar had visited Nepal recently, Upadhyay said he had “good discussion” about how to get Nepal out of this tragedy.

“We have full commitment of Indian government. We told them our priorities. As far as rescue operation is concerned, it is almost ending and that is why the government of Nepal has decided that all friends who have come should prepare to leave now,” he said.

Meanwhile, Spokesperson in the External Affairs Minister Vikas Swarup said “relief operations will continue in full swing. Nepal government has asked for earth-moving equipment to assist in clearing debris.”

PTI

Nepal has asked India, foreign rescue teams to go back: NDRF chief

The Nepal government on Monday asked all foreign teams engaging in rescue operations to withdraw their teams and return as the required work was almost complete.

Speaking to CNN-IBN, DG of National Disaster Response Force OP Singh said that the Nepal PM’s Office has – for now – asked teams to return to their country while an official order was expected soon.

A NDRF vehicle is seen deplaning in Kathmandu to help rescue operations. PTIA NDRF vehicle is seen deplaning in Kathmandu to help rescue operations. PTI

A NDRF vehicle is seen deplaning in Kathmandu to help rescue operations. PTI

“Not just India, all countries have been asked to return as the work is almost complete,” Singh said, adding that “all our 16 teams are still here and we have completed our work.”

Singh further said that India was cooperating with the Nepal government and their medical and other relief teams would continue to be on ground till required.

On Sunday, Nepalis took to social media to ask Indian media to return, claiming that their coverage was more of a publicity stunt for the Indian government.

On Twitter, #GoHomeIndianMedia was among the top trends with tweets questioning the over-presence of journalists covering rescue operations being carried out by Indian forces and rescue teams.

Meanwhile, lifting the gloom on a day marred by more aftershocks that kept people in the country on the edge, rescuers miraculously pulled out three more survivors from under the debris of their homes, eight days after the quake.

The death toll now stands close to 7,300 and is likely to go up even more.

Fresh aftershocks, including one measuring 4.3 on the Richter Scale, sent a fresh wave of panic among people, most of whom have been staying in the open battling bad weather and scarce food and water supplies following the country’s worst earthquake in 80 years.

Nepal had said chances of finding survivors buried in the rubble are “extremely slim”, with Home Ministry spokesman Laxmi Dhakal saying “it will be a miracle if anyone is found alive” though he denied that administration has given up yet and that rescue teams were continuing to look.

At least 38 Indians are among 54 foreigners killed in the quake that left a trail of devastation and suffering, flattening buildings and uprooting electric poles and trees. Police said 51 foreigners, including 10 Indians, were injured and 82 foreign nationals were missing.

With PTI inputs

At least 41 Indians killed in Nepal due to the earthquake, says police

Kathmandu: At least 41 Indians are among 57 foreigners killed in Nepal in the powerful earthquake that left a trail of devastation and suffering, flattening buildings and uprooting electric poles and trees.

At least 41 Indians have died in Nepal due to the earthquake. PTI

At least 41 Indians have died in Nepal due to the earthquake. PTI

The number of Indian nationals killed in the quake has reached 41, according to a statement issued by Nepal Police.

A total of 57 foreigners have been killed in the quake.

“So far, 7,276 people have died and another 14,267 people were injured in the quake,” the statement said.

At least 10 Indians were among injured, it added.

Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat has said that the death toll is expected to climb “much higher”.

Meanwhile, an Indian Air Force team has rescued 22 Buddhist monks from a remote village of Gorkha district, the epicentre of the devastating earthquake on 25 April.

The monks were rescued by Indian Army helicopters from Hinang Gompa, according to Indian Embassy sources in Kathmandu.

India’s youngest Everest summitteer Arjun Vajpai was also rescued from Makalu base camp and flown to Kathmandu. Vajpai has been rescued by Nepal Army team from the mountain area.

Fresh aftershocks, including one measuring 4.3 on the Richter Scale on Sunday, sent a fresh wave of panic among people, most of whom have been staying in the open battling bad weather and scarce food and water supplies following the country’s worst earthquake in 80 years.

Nepal parties have agreed that all those interested in carrying out relief work in the country can start at once, without having to route the process through the government.

A report released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the number of houses destroyed in the country is 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.

The UN urged Nepal to relax customs controls which it says are holding up deliveries of aid coming from countries around the world from reaching the survivors.

Nepal lifted import taxes on tarpaulins and tents on Friday but home ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal said all goods arriving from abroad had to be inspected.

Aid agencies have warned that remote mountainous areas in the country have suffered “almost total devastation”.

PTI

Live: Nepal earthquake death toll crosses 7,200; 101-year-old man rescued

May 4, 2015

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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)

US marines and aircraft reach Nepal

US troops and emergency aircraft arrive in Nepal to help deliver aid to remote areas hit by last week’s devastating earthquake.

Have enough doctors, need tents and medical gear now: Nepal

It is heartening that countries the world over have rushed teams of doctors to Nepal, where over 80 lakh persons have been affected by a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that ripped the earth last Saturday. But the authorities there would have stated to dna that they have enough doctors now. What they need at this juncture is medical and accommodation gear.

It is heartening that countries the world over have rushed teams of doctors to Nepal, where over 80 lakh persons have been affected by a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake that ripped the earth last Saturday. But the authorities there would have stated to dna that they have enough doctors now. What they need at this juncture is medical and accommodation gear.Talking to dna over phone from Kathmandu, Dr Khem Karki, member secretary, Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC), and a coordinator for foreign medical teams, said that more than 250 doctors from across the world are already working in Nepal and 80 more are waiting for deployment. He stressed that what they need now is tarpaulin tents to shelter people. “It is great that doctors from across the globe over are landing in Nepal to treat the injured. But currently, there’s an oversupply, and we have not yet been able to allot some of them their area of work. There are more than 80 doctors waiting for deployment, while 250 are already working on the field. “<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Nepal’s Consul General in Kolkata, Chandra Kumar, further said, “We are in dire need of tarpaulin tents. More than 80 lakh people are homeless, and we need more than one lakh tents daily. Those who want to help us should donate tarpaulin tents.”Other than damaged roads and lack of logistical support, verification of doctors’ documents is another reason for the delay in deployment. As per protocol, every doctor arriving in Nepal for medical relief work has to take an endorsement from the NHRC, whose officials verify the documents and issue a temporary licence for them to work there. Karki said, ““If the doctors belong to government institution, we deploy them right away. But for those from private institutions we have to follow certain guidelines.” He added, “Those waiting will get deployment within 2-3 days. Our appeal for blood donation got an overwhelming response, leading to enough stock of blood.There is enough supply of oxygen. Now, we want the things like fixator, which is used to treat multiple bone fracture, dressing material, antibiotics and drinking water.”Kumar said, “Our office is there to help, and a number of NGOs and government bodies have come forward to help. Of the 37 affected districts, we have declared an emergency in 12.”

Customs checks hold up relief for Nepal quake victims – U.N. | Reuters

KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Customs inspections at Kathmandu airport are holding up vital relief supplies for earthquake survivors in Nepal, a U.N. official said on Saturday, as the death toll from the disaster a week ago passed 6,600.

United Nations Resident Representative Jamie McGoldrick said the government must loosen its normal customs restrictions to deal with the increasing flow of relief material now pouring in from abroad and piling up at the airport.

But the government, complaining it has received such unneeded supplies as tuna and mayonnaise, insisted its customs agents had to check all emergency shipments.

U.S. military aircraft and personnel due to arrive on Saturday to help ferry relief supplies to stricken areas outside the capital were delayed and tentatively scheduled to arrive on Sunday, a U.S. Marines spokeswoman said.

“They should not be using peacetime customs methodology,” the U.N.’s McGoldrick said. Instead, he argued, all relief material should get a blanket exemption from checks on arrival.

Nepal lifted import taxes on tarpaulins and tents on Friday but a home ministry spokesman, Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, said all goods coming in from overseas had to be inspected. “This is something we need to do,” he said.

Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat appealed on Friday to international donors to send tents, tarpaulins and basic food supplies and said some of the items received were of no use.

“We have received things like tuna fish and mayonnaise. What good are those things for us? We need grains, salt and sugar,” he told reporters.

TRUCKS AND DRIVERS

Some survivors held a candle-light ceremony in Kathmandu on Saturday to mark the passing of one week since the disaster, many of them breaking down in tears as they prayed.

Marine Brigadier General Paul Kennedy said the delayed U.S. contingent included at least 100 U.S. soldiers, lifting equipment and six military aircraft, two of them helicopters.

He also warned against bottlenecks at Kathmandu airport, saying: “What you don’t want to do is build up a mountain of supplies” that block space for planes or more supplies.

Nepali government officials have said efforts to step up the pace of delivery of relief material to remote areas were also 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.

The government said the death toll from last Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake had reached 6,655 and that more than 14,000 people were injured.

In Kathmandu, teams with sniffer dogs slowly searched through ruined buildings for bodies still buried in the rubble. Elsewhere, volunteers stacked up bricks recovered from the debris to begin the slow process of reconstruction.

Some agencies are beginning to look for demolition crews capable of bringing down thousands of dangerous buildings.

MONSOON AND DISEASE

Many Nepalis have been sleeping in the open since the quake, with survivors afraid to return to their homes because of powerful aftershocks. Tents have been pitched in Kathmandu’s main sports stadium and on its golf course.

According to the United Nations, 600,000 houses have been destroyed or damaged.

The United Nations 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.

The top priorities now are getting aid and shelter to people before the monsoon season starts within weeks and adds to the difficulty in distributing relief supplies, World Food Programme executive director Ertharin Cousin told Reuters.

“Our fear is the monsoon will come early,” she said.

Disease is also a worry. “Hospitals are overflowing, water is scarce, bodies are still buried under the rubble and people are still sleeping in the open,” Rownak Khan, UNICEF’s deputy representative in Nepal, said in a statement.

“This is a perfect breeding ground for diseases.”

(Additional reporting by Ross Adkin; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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

Quake-hit Nepalis need information, not just food and water | Reuters

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – There is probably no other place in the world right now where information – from the fate of your family members to where to get food and water – is more desperately needed than in the Nepal, devastated by a powerful earthquake six days ago.

The 7.8 magnitude quake brought down thousands of buildings in the densely-populated Kathmandu Valley, which includes the capital, severely damaged telecommunications, tore apart roads and snapped bridges.

As the death toll passes 6,000, many of the estimated eight million people affected are living out in the open – unable find out if their families in rural areas are alive or dead.

Those in the remote mud-and-brick Himalayan villages remain stranded, possibly injured, amidst the ruins of their homes – awaiting rescue and relief.

Survival in a crisis is often based on the person’s ability to connect and share information – to call for help and find comfort from others facing the same challenges, say experts in disaster communication.

As relief materials such dry food rations, blankets and tarpaulin sheets flood into Nepal, disaster specialists stress that information as a form of aid must not be overlooked.

“People affected by disasters need information just like disaster responders do – because it is what they need to make good decisions, protect themselves and their family and source the assistance they need,” said Imogen Wall, an independent disaster expert specialising in communications.

INTERNET SAVES THE DAY

According to 2014 data from the Nepal Telecom Authority, 86 percent of the country’s 28 million population have a mobile phone, with almost 30 percent able to access the internet.

Thousands in urban areas with intermittent access to the internet are charging phones from generators, and taken to social media sites to reassure loved ones they are safe.

‏”That scary earthquake shaked our nepal for a 2 minutes!!! And I am safe here but many people more than 100 are injured,” tweeted @sunilkc9999 from the district of Pokhara after the earthquake struck close to noon on Saturday.

Many have also been using tools like Google’s Person Finder and Facebook’s Safety Check to trace missing friends and family.

Others have been using the web to call for aid.

“INFANT SUPPLIES NEEDED. Nepal Children’s Organization requires lactogen, diapers, sanitation pads, food, water, and children’s clothes,” tweeted Chiranjibi Bhandari, a charity worker, from Kathmandu.

And now as rescue teams, aid workers and journalists venture out of the capital to areas closer to the epicentre, they are sharing powerful images and stories of communities on the brink.

Freelance photographer Prashanth Vishwanathan with ActionAid UK posted a picture on Facebook on Thursday of an elderly woman sitting amongst the debris of a cowshed, caressing the head of her dying cow as it lay buried under a mound of mud and straw.

“She (the cow) used to give my household 7 litres of milk. She was our sustenance,” the picture caption quotes 72-year-old Sundaya Tamang of Phalame village in Khabre district as saying.

Network providers across the world are coming together to ease communications after the impoverished country’s worst earthquake in more than 80 years, offering free or discounted rates on calls to Nepal.

Telecoms firms in India such as Airtel, Aircel and Vodafone, have slashed call charges to Nepal. While in the United States, network providers such as T-Mobile and Verizon have offered free calls and texts to Nepal. Skype and Viber are also allowing users make free calls in and out of the country.

“We want to help provide people with alternative methods of communication to reach friends and family in the region during this difficult time,” said a statement from Skype.

“NEWS YOU CAN USE”

But for others without phones or internet access more traditional forms of communication such as radio are a lifeline, providing them with information on how to protect themselves and where to go for assistance.

Without such information, say experts, people often panic and false rumours can take hold, exacerbating the emergency.

BBC Media Action, for example, has been broadcasting disaster-related information through its Nepali Service and more than 260 local radio station partners.

Jackie Dalton, a senior producer and trainer at BBC Media Action said the media is key for reaching out to survivors, but journalists are often too busy reporting on the problems such as the death toll and devastation, rather than the solutions.

“People are hungry for information and need to be able to have information which can help them. We started training journalists in Nepal three years ago … as a quake of this magnitude had been predicted,” said Dalton.

“When the earthquake happened, within four hours the BBC Nepali Service was sending out information, and many of the national Nepali radio stations were doing the same.”

The messages broadcast include what to do to stay safe during aftershocks and information on how to avoid sickness and disease by washing hands and filtering and boiling water.

They also give out first aid information, hotlines numbers to trace the missing and advice such as encouraging people to use text, rather than call to avoid congestion on the networks.

The media can also help to dispel rumours and misinformation common after a calamity.

In the hours after Saturday’s earthquake, for example, there were rumours that even bigger quake of magnitude 9 was going to strike at a certain time, creating widespread panic. Radio stations quickly broadcast the information was false and that it was impossible to predict the timing of a quake.

Organisations such as InterNews are also on the ground to coordinate information flows between communities, responders and the media. Serving as intermediaries between the local media and humanitarian agencies, it publishes a daily “news you can use” bulletin in local languages for media to disseminate.

Groups such as the Communicating with Disaster-Affected Communities Network post practical information on everything from how to dispose of bodies safely to spotting the symptoms of cholera and the dangers of children playing in rubble.

But challenges remain, say disaster specialists, such as generating funds for this often invisible form of aid – not as tangible as food or tents and not as attractive to donors.

Another challenge, they say, is ensuring the communication a two-way process, where survivors are able to share their needs to ensure they can recover as quickly as possible.

“Messaging alone is not enough – it is essential that aid agencies listen to affected people in order to provide relevant content,” said Wall.

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla; Editing by Ros Russell)

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

Nepal quake epicentre ‘devastated’

Towns and villages near the epicentre of Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal have suffered “almost total devastation”, the Red Cross says.

Frustration over Nepal quake relief

Frustration grows in parts of rural Nepal over the pace of relief efforts, with some badly-affected villages yet to receive assistance.

Nepal earthquake: Why many locals believe they are lucky

Why many Nepalese people believe they have been lucky

Nepal PM faces ire of earthquake victims; death toll tops 6,000

Kathmandu: Protests greeted Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala in relief camps as anger spilled over to the streets with people seizing food and water supplies, four days after a devastating quake claimed over 6,000 lives.

People vented their anger when the Prime Minister visited their camps to assess relief work and complained that they were not getting any aid. Koirala told them that he had come to see for himself the difficult situation Nepal is faced with and assured them that help would reach them at the earliest.

Injured persons being shifted in earthquake hit Nepal. PTIInjured persons being shifted in earthquake hit Nepal. PTI

Injured persons being shifted in earthquake hit Nepal. PTI

Thousands of desperate Nepalese, who have been staying in the open with no houses to return to and fearing more devastation from aftershocks, clashed with police and seized water-bottles and other essential supplies.

Frayed tempers were also witnessed at the main bus station where quake victims had gathered to get out of Kathmandu but the promised buses failed to arrive. Scuffles broke out between angry crowds and the riot police which arrived there to control the situation.

Over 6,000 bodies have so far been pulled out from under mounds of debris and rubble left by razed homes and buildings in Saturday’s 7.9-magnitude temblor, Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam said.

On Tuesday, Koirala had said the toll could reach 10,000 because information from the affected remote villages is yet to come.

More than 11,000 people have been injured in the quake, the worst in over 80 years.

Rescuers are still struggling to reach remote mountainous areas in the Himalayan nation, where relief efforts have been hampered by heavy rain and landslide even as global help poured in.

Officials warned that they faced problems in getting aid into the country and then delivering it to some of the remote communities in desperate need in Nepal.

“We’ve been left starving in the cold and the best this government can give us is this queue. Why are they so slow?” said Rajana, who goes by only one name.

“I keep hearing on the news that all governments and aid agencies are here, but where are they? Our government is totally absent. Forget shelter, they couldn’t even give us water,” she said as she queued up along with many others for a bus to her native village.

A government spokesman said that helicopters had been dropping tents, dry food and medicine to remote villages but they were yet to reach many isolated communities.

When helicopters managed to land, they are often mobbed by villagers pleading for food and water, or to be evacuated.

Nepal has declared three days of mourning for the victims of Saturday’s earthquake.

The rescuers gave yet to reach some of the worst-hit villages in Gorkha, Dhading, Sindhupalchok, Kavre and Nuwakot, among other districts.

Nepalese riot police battled to contain anger among survivors of an earthquake.

Meanwhile, India said it is focusing on Kathmandu and the worst-affected Gorkha district for its rescue and relief efforts in the quake-hit country.

“India has focused its assistance in two parts of Nepal. The first one is the capital, Kathmandu, and the second one is Gorkha district which was epicentre of the earthquake,” Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae said.

Over 500 personnel from NDRF are currently in Nepal to carry out the rescue operations.

“We are fully committed to help government of Nepal in this gigantic disaster. We express our solidarity with the people in this tragic moment and will continue our cooperation towards the government of Nepal as long as it is required,” Rae said.

Dinesh Bhattarai, Foreign Affairs Advisor to Nepal Prime Minister, said: “It is helping and the challenge is to take more relief materials to the affected people and areas and that has been our challenge. We have constituted committees and they are working very hard in some of the areas which are not accessible.

“We are grateful to them (India) for their help on this crisis hour. A friend in need is a friend indeed.”

Despite their efforts to reach affected areas, relief works have been held back by the lack of coordination among the authorities, and the problem has exacerbated due to bad weather and geographical hindrances.

Nepal desperately needs tents, water and food supplies, Koirala told an all party meeting yesterday briefing the leaders on efforts to rush emergency supplies to those in need.

Till now, 15 Indians have died in the earthquake.

While many villages across Nepal are still waiting for rescue and relief teams, life in the capital, Kathmandu, is slowly returning to normal. Municipal workers today began cleaning the streets.

Authorities in the country are now facing the daunting task of tackling post-quake challenges like spread of diseases and rehabilitation.

PTI

Nepal PM Koirala faces ire of earthquake victims; death toll tops 6,000

Kathmandu: Protests greeted Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala in relief camps as anger spilled over to the streets with people seizing food and water supplies, four days after a devastating quake claimed over 6,000 lives.

People vented their anger when the Prime Minister visited their camps to assess relief work and complained that they were not getting any aid. Koirala told them that he had come to see for himself the difficult situation Nepal is faced with and assured them that help would reach them at the earliest.

Injured persons being shifted in earthquake hit Nepal. PTIInjured persons being shifted in earthquake hit Nepal. PTI

Injured persons being shifted in earthquake hit Nepal. PTI

Thousands of desperate Nepalese, who have been staying in the open with no houses to return to and fearing more devastation from aftershocks, clashed with police and seized water-bottles and other essential supplies.

Frayed tempers were also witnessed at the main bus station where quake victims had gathered to get out of Kathmandu but the promised buses failed to arrive. Scuffles broke out between angry crowds and the riot police which arrived there to control the situation.

Over 6,000 bodies have so far been pulled out from under mounds of debris and rubble left by razed homes and buildings in Saturday’s 7.9-magnitude temblor, Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam said.

On Tuesday, Koirala had said the toll could reach 10,000 because information from the affected remote villages is yet to come.

More than 11,000 people have been injured in the quake, the worst in over 80 years.

Rescuers are still struggling to reach remote mountainous areas in the Himalayan nation, where relief efforts have been hampered by heavy rain and landslide even as global help poured in.

Officials warned that they faced problems in getting aid into the country and then delivering it to some of the remote communities in desperate need in Nepal.

“We’ve been left starving in the cold and the best this government can give us is this queue. Why are they so slow?” said Rajana, who goes by only one name.

“I keep hearing on the news that all governments and aid agencies are here, but where are they? Our government is totally absent. Forget shelter, they couldn’t even give us water,” she said as she queued up along with many others for a bus to her native village.

A government spokesman said that helicopters had been dropping tents, dry food and medicine to remote villages but they were yet to reach many isolated communities.

When helicopters managed to land, they are often mobbed by villagers pleading for food and water, or to be evacuated.

Nepal has declared three days of mourning for the victims of Saturday’s earthquake.

The rescuers gave yet to reach some of the worst-hit villages in Gorkha, Dhading, Sindhupalchok, Kavre and Nuwakot, among other districts.

Nepalese riot police battled to contain anger among survivors of an earthquake.

Meanwhile, India said it is focusing on Kathmandu and the worst-affected Gorkha district for its rescue and relief efforts in the quake-hit country.

“India has focused its assistance in two parts of Nepal. The first one is the capital, Kathmandu, and the second one is Gorkha district which was epicentre of the earthquake,” Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae said.

Over 500 personnel from NDRF are currently in Nepal to carry out the rescue operations.

“We are fully committed to help government of Nepal in this gigantic disaster. We express our solidarity with the people in this tragic moment and will continue our cooperation towards the government of Nepal as long as it is required,” Rae said.

Dinesh Bhattarai, Foreign Affairs Advisor to Nepal Prime Minister, said: “It is helping and the challenge is to take more relief materials to the affected people and areas and that has been our challenge. We have constituted committees and they are working very hard in some of the areas which are not accessible.

“We are grateful to them (India) for their help on this crisis hour. A friend in need is a friend indeed.”

Despite their efforts to reach affected areas, relief works have been held back by the lack of coordination among the authorities, and the problem has exacerbated due to bad weather and geographical hindrances.

Nepal desperately needs tents, water and food supplies, Koirala told an all party meeting yesterday briefing the leaders on efforts to rush emergency supplies to those in need.

Till now, 15 Indians have died in the earthquake.

While many villages across Nepal are still waiting for rescue and relief teams, life in the capital, Kathmandu, is slowly returning to normal. Municipal workers today began cleaning the streets.

Authorities in the country are now facing the daunting task of tackling post-quake challenges like spread of diseases and rehabilitation.

PTI

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 quake victims still stranded, PM says toll could be 10,000 | Reuters

JHARIBAR/SINDHUPALCHOWK, Nepal (Reuters) – People stranded in remote villages and towns across Nepal were still waiting for aid and relief to arrive on Tuesday, four days after a devastating earthquake destroyed buildings and roads and killed more than 4,600 people.

The government has yet to assess the full scale of the damage wrought by Saturday’s 7.9 magnitude quake, unable to reach many mountainous areas despite aid supplies and personnel pouring in from around the world.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told Reuters the death toll could reach 10,000, as information on damage from far-flung villages and towns has yet to come in.

That would surpass the 8,500 who died in a 1934 earthquake, the last disaster on this scale to hit the Himalayan nation.

“The government is doing all it can for rescue and relief on a war footing,” Koirala said. “It is a challenge and a very difficult hour for Nepal.”

Nepal told aid agencies it did not need more foreign rescue teams to help search for survivors, because its government and military could cope, the national head of the United Nations Development Programme told Reuters.

Experts said the chance of finding people alive in the ruins was slim more than four days after disaster struck.

“After the first 72 hours the survival rate drops dramatically and we are on day four,” said Wojtek Wilk of the Polish Centre for International Aid, an NGO which has six medical staff and 81 firefighters in Nepal. “On the fifth day it’s next to zero.”

In a rare glimmer of hope, a Nepali-French rescue team pulled a 28-year-old man, Rishi Khanal, from a collapsed apartment block in Kathmandu after he had spent around 80 hours trapped in a room with three dead bodies.

In Jharibar, a village in the hilly Gorkha district of Nepal close to the quake’s epicentre, Sunthalia was not so lucky.

Her husband away in India and with no help in sight, she dug for hours in the rubble of her collapsed home on Saturday to recover the bodies of two of her children, a 10-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son.

Another son aged four miraculously survived.

HUNDREDS KILLED IN LANDSLIDES

In Barpak, further north, rescue helicopters were unable to find a place to land. On Tuesday, soldiers had started to make their way overland, first by bus, then by foot.

Army helicopters also circled over Laprak, another village in the district best known as the home of Gurkha soldiers.

A local health official estimated that 1,600 of the 1,700 houses there had been razed. Helicopters dropped food packets in the hope that survivors could gather them up.

In Sindhupalchowk, about 3.5 hours by road northeast of Kathmandu, the earthquake was followed by landslides, killing 1,182 people and seriously injuring 376. A local official said he feared many more were trapped and more aid was needed.

“There are hundreds of houses where our people have not been able to reach yet,” said Krishna Pokharel, the district administrator. “There is a shortage of fuel, the weather is bad and there is not enough help coming in from Kathmandu.”

International aid has begun arriving in Nepal, but disbursement has been slow, partly because aftershocks have sporadically closed the airport.

According to the home (interior) ministry, the confirmed death toll stands at 4,682, with more than 9,240 injured.

The United Nations said 8 million people were affected by the quake and that 1.4 million people were in need of food.

Nepal’s most deadly quake in 81 years also triggered a huge avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least 18 climbers and guides, including four foreigners, the worst single disaster on the world’s highest peak.

All the climbers who had been stranded at camps high up on Everest had been flown by helicopters to safety, mountaineers reported on Tuesday.

Up to 250 people were missing after an avalanche hit a village on Tuesday in Rasuwa district, a popular trekking area to the north of Kathmandu, district governor Uddhav Bhattarai said.

FRUIT VENDORS RETURN TO STREETS

A series of aftershocks, severe damage from the quake, creaking infrastructure and a lack of funds have complicated rescue efforts in the poor country of 28 million people sandwiched between India and China.

In Kathmandu, youths and relatives of victims were digging into the ruins of destroyed buildings and landmarks.

“Waiting for help is more torturous than doing this ourselves,” said Pradip Subba, searching for the bodies of his brother and sister-in-law in the debris of Kathmandu’s historic Dharahara tower.

The 19th century tower collapsed on Saturday as weekend sightseers clambered up its spiral stairs. Scores of people were killed when it crumpled.

Elsewhere in the capital’s ancient Durbar Square, groups of young men cleared rubble from around an ancient temple, using pickaxes, shovels and their hands. Several policemen stood by, watching.

Heavy rain late on Tuesday slowed the rescue work.

In the capital, as elsewhere, thousands have been sleeping on pavements, roads and in parks, many under makeshift tents.

Hospitals are full to overflowing, while water, food and power are scarce.

There were some signs of normality returning on Tuesday, with fruit vendors setting up stalls on major roads and public buses back in operation.

Officials acknowledged that they were overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.

“The big challenge is relief,” said Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudel, Nepal’s top bureaucrat. “We are really desperate for more foreign expertise to pull through this crisis.”

India and China, which have used aid and investment to court Kathmandu for years, were among the first contributors to the international effort to support Nepal’s stretched resources.

(Additional reporting by Gopal Sharma, Ross Adkin, Frank Jack Daniel, Andrew Marshall and Christophe Van Der Perre in Kathmandu, Aman Shah and Clara Ferreira-Marques in Mumbai, Aditya Kalra, Douglas Busvine and Aditi Shah in New Delhi, and Jane Wardell in Sydney; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Paritosh Bansal; Editing by Mike Collett-White and Paul Tait)

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

Nepal earthquake: Death toll has touched 4,347 and could go up to 10,000, says PM

Kathmandu: The death toll from Nepal’s deadly earthquake has touched 4,347 and could go up to 10,000, making it the country’s worst ever temblor, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said on Tuesday.

Koirala’s alarming assessment was conveyed to the envoy of India, China and the US as an army of Nepalese and foreigners worked feverishly to look for people who may still be buried under Saturday’s debris.

Representational image. AFPRepresentational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

But even as international aid poured into Kathmandu, with volunteers reaching some of the remotest parts of the landlocked nation, it became clear that the Saturday earthquake, 7.9 on the Richter scale, may turn out to be worse than the one that claimed over 8,000 lives in 1934.

A worried Koirala met the ambassadors of India and China — Nepal’s two largest neighbours — as well as the US and said he feared the toll may be as high as 10,000, his media advisor Prakash Adhikari told IANS.

He said the figure was arrived at as nearly 4,400 people were already confirmed dead, many of the thousands of injured were critical and a large number of people were missing and may be dead.

More than 7,500 people have been injured in the quake. “It’s a frightening situation,” one official told IANS.

The dead include at least 10 foreigners — from India, China, Australia, France and the US.

Nepal meanwhile grappled with an acute water scarcity. In Kathmandu, women and children holding plastic buckets and other utensils stood in queues at many places to take their share of water.

With thousands of houses destroyed or damaged beyond living, tens of thousands of men, women and children spent a third chilly night out in the open in Kathmandu.

Most have been in the same clothes they were in when they fled their homes on Saturday after the powerful earthquake hit the country.

Since then there have been countless aftershocks, sparking panic.

Many people use plastic sheets and cardboards to sleep on. Blankets have become a much sought after luxury, forcing the government to send out appeals to the international community to send more aid — and fast.

The home ministry said Kathmandu and Sindhupalchowk districts, among the worst hit, have reported 1,039 and 1,176 deaths respectively.

Rescuers, including from India, are engaged in massive operations in Kathmandu and other places. Hospitals are overwhelmed and treating many of the wounded in the open due to lack of space.

Some hospitals have reported cases of diarrhoea. Medical waste has also started accumulating in various hospitals, said Basudev Pandey at the main hospital at Patan, near Kathmandu.

He said several people from villages near Lalitpur, a nearby city, had also reported diarrhoea.

Water scarcity, lack of debris management and waste management have worsened the condition in Kathmandu’s hospitals.

Power outages continued, crippling many ATMs. There are few vehicles on Kathmandu’s streets. Food and other essential items are in short supply — sparking anger and disaffection with the pace of relief work.

IANS

Live: Nepal PM Sushil Koirala says earthquake death toll could rise to 10,000

Apr 28, 2015

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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)

In a quake-devastated Nepal, rescue operations continue as death toll mounts to 4,350

Link:  In a quake-devastated Nepal, rescue operations continue as death toll mounts to 4,350

India opens 15 border points with Nepal to facilitate evacuation

Conceding that the magnitude of the task of relief has just started emerging, foreign secretary, S Jaishankar said that India is stepping its efforts but could not give an idea of how much time the relief and rescue (RR) work would take.

With Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu undergoing operational difficulties because of the sheer magnitude of rescue and relief task, India has opened 15 border outposts along the Indo-Nepal border, manned by the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), as exit routes to evacuate stranded people.Conceding that the magnitude of the task of relief has just started emerging, foreign secretary, S Jaishankar said that India is stepping its efforts but could not give an idea of how much time the relief and rescue (RR) work would take.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Being well connected with Nepal via road links across the states of Bihar, Sikkim, West Bengal, UP and Uttarakhand, India is now putting a lot of emphasis on evacuating stranded people through roads and also for sending rescue and relief materials and men.Of these Raxaul in Bihar and Sanauli in Uttar Pradesh have become major exit points from Nepal. As per SSB records, nearby 8000 stranded people, mostly Indians, had entered into India via Raxaul border. Over 500 stranded people entered into India via Sanauli on Monday.Besides, India has managed to evacuate nearly 4,800 stranded people via air route. India sought to increase the effort.“We have moved a company (about 120 personnel) each from all our 29 battalions to assist in rescue and relief operations at the border. Besides an Inspector General, 2 DIGs coordinating RR work, Commandant in-charge of all the battalions have been put on this job all along the border,” director general of SSB, B D Sharma told dna.He said, “At Raxual outpost, we provided food and medical care to 5067 people since last night, 13 seriously injured patients were moved to hospitals. To help rescue the foreigners, home ministry has specifically told us to assist them and give visa on gratis to enter India without any discrimination.” The SSB is also facilitating movement of buses from India to Nepal to send rescue and relief workers and medical and food material. It has also pulled out 38 vehicles, including trucks, ambulances, buses and water tankers from its own stock for assisting the national disaster response force (NDRF) that are already in Kathmandu and Pokhra.The defense ministry also stepped up its efforts by putting Monday’s target to send in four C-17s Globe master planes, three C – 130 Super Hercules, 3 IL-76 and 2 AN-32. Besides, it has also pushed in 8 helicopters in service for evacuation in the outskirts of Kathmandu and Pokhra.“Four more choppers are on their way and six have been kept on standby. They have rescued 337 people who have been admitted to the military hospitals,” defense secretary R K Mathur said.With time slipping out of hand, the Indian Army is planning to push its Gorkha ex-servicemen for speed up evacuation and rescue efforts.“As they are well versed with the area, topography and adept climbers we are looking into the possibility of pressing them into for RR work as soon as possible,” the defence secretary said.Ensuring that nothing would act as an impediment in providing succor to Nepal, union home secretary L C Goyal said that he would see that no rule debars NGOs from reaching out to Nepal with relief material.

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: There was nowhere to run inside the airport… the people swayed

With all the energy I could muster I screamed and ran to the door that led out to the lawns. Stones and cement blocks were falling. Those few seconds are an hazy to me but my colleagues tell me that my screaming ‘run run’ jolted them into sprinting out.

I was in Nepal for a workshop when the first earthquake hit. I was exiting the hotel washroom as the lights went out and the earth began to shake in a way that tosses you around. Trying to walk in complete darkness I made my way to where I hoped others were. A colleague took cover by a wall. I held on to him as he held on to another. We thought it was a terrorist attack, but soon it was clear it was a massive quake. With all the energy I could muster I screamed and ran to the door that led out to the lawns. Stones and cement blocks were falling. Those few seconds are an hazy to me but my colleagues tell me that my screaming ‘run run’ jolted them into sprinting out.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>We reached the lawns and sprawled ourself on our stomachs, trying to balance ourselves. Strong aftershocks continued as more guests ran out. We were now cut off from the Internet and phone lines. As the lawns were close to the building, and unsafe, we were escorted to the tennis grounds. We camped there for six hours as the staff brought us whatever food they had — cakes, pastries — and water, though the they too were injured. The kitchen staff had suffered cuts and bled profusely. Those injured were soon treated. The tremors continued but we were safe.Around six it got cold and looked like rain. The hotel manager announced that we could shift to the lobby. Making our way inside, we saw the damage for the first time. Walls and ceilings had cracked open. The ground was split in places and tiles had come off.We still did not know the extent of damage outside and could only speculate. Initially, we heard 300 people were dead in Kathmandu, the Dharahara was destroyed along with Bhaktapur Durbar Square, both places I was hoping to visit the next day. We ran up to our rooms to get essential stuff, blankets and pillows. I saw the staircases and corridors were all damaged with big cracks on walls. It was very scary, especially as aftershocks occurred every hour. I frantically tried to call home. Finally, I got an Internet connection and could inform people I was safe.Of course, we also raided the mini bar.The tremors continued and with each we felt the worst would happen now. Sleeping was difficult because of all the motion sickness we felt. It is not possible to take a nap when you have to be prepared to run out any moment. Many slept with shoes on. Around midnight some of us decided that sleeping out in the lawns would be a better as we wouldn’t have to run. However, strong aftershocks started again. At times I did not know if was my mind playing games. But then the birds started chirping and dogs howling before each quake.It started to rain, forcing us inside with all our luggage. All this while I tried calling or messaging but network services were not available. News of death and destruction was reaching us with reports that more earthquakes were expected. Now and then the Internet would work for five minutes and we would all try to send across messages. While trying to sleep and simultaneously remain alert, big tremors occurred, lasting 2-3 seconds shaking everything in the lobby, making children cry and distressing parents. With each aftershock people would wake up harried and run to the exit, only to realise it is over and they should stay put. Panic thrived in the uncertainty that night. The next day I left for the airport with four others, around 12;30 pm, as news about another predicted earthquake came in. The airport which was chaotic, choked and a complete mess. We got into a snail-paced queue for check-in when the second quake hit. Some airline staffers ran away. I was terrified as my mind rushed and my heart beat faster. If the walls and ceiling gave way we would be rapped and if panic set in there would be a stampede. In both scenarios there was no way to reach the exit in time. We tried to stand still, holding on to our luggage as the building and people swayed. A few seconds later the lights went out. Some passengers panicked and ran for the exit. My heart was beating painfully hard. There was nowhere to run in the small airport. When one feels they’re facing death, priorities are clear. I called home but it didn’t connect. I left a message on my phone that read “I love you all”. Finally, I reached a friend and, feeling a silent panic taking over. asked him to tell my family that I loved them. I felt that in those few second it could all be over. But the tremors subsided and I could speak speak to my sister and my mom who was near tears. A European passenger in a parallel queue saw me hiding my tears behind my glasses. He silently gestured to me that all would be fine. I nodded and smiled back. Strangers had been making such small gestures throughout and it made all the difference.
As we got through the security check, it looked as if all flights were suspended and the airport non-operational for the day. Thousands of passengers were waiting, in the lounge, and outside near the runway. We saw a huge Indian Air Force plane, which we heard had just landed. There was much confusion over who would be allowed to board this flight, till the officials assured us all would be taken. After waiting in the queue to the aircraft for seven hours, we were allowed to board at 7:30pm. The injured, the elderly and the children were given preference. Some 325 people were accommodated, most sitting on the spiked floor. Some instructions and an hour and a half later we arrived in Delhi. My luggage is still in Nepal and I should receive it soon. I hope normalcy is restored and families of those who died have the strength to live through.

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