Aid Workers Ramp Up Efforts In Nepal Before Monsoon Season
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Now let's get a picture of a nightmarish week in Nepal. A major earthquake struck a nation that was still recovering from a big quake last month. More than 8,000 people have died. Tuesday, a U.S. military helicopter delivering relief supplies disappeared. Six marines and two Nepalese soldiers were on board, and we do not know their fates. Though, we're now told the wreckage has been found. Caroline Brennan is an aid worker with Catholic Relief Services and one of many people who've lived through this past week. She's in the capital, Kathmandu, where she arrived just days before the second quake hit.
CAROLINE BRENNAN: It's a reminder for those of us who are here for a temporary amount of time. When this happens, we're fearful of our own well-being and running outside. But so many people are panicked about what's happened to their family members who are far away or in different parts of the city. So there's just this panic about what had happened to people who weren't close to them and just this shock that this had happened again. Everyone thought that this was behind them.
INSKEEP: Have you woken up each day since thinking about whether there's going to be yet another earthquake?
BRENNAN: You feel tremors at night. We had one this morning just at breakfast. And everyone ran outside in the morning. Just about an hour ago, the alarms went off inside our building that read set path sensories (ph) - a reading below the ground of tremors that might come. And so many of us were running outside the building due to the alarm system, but the tremor never actually came.
INSKEEP: How have those continuing tremors and aftershocks affected the effort to recover from the first big one?
BRENNAN: There's just this heavy sense of trauma that people are carrying with them. And you have a lot of families whose husbands or fathers are working outside the country. So you have a lot of people who are especially vulnerable.
INSKEEP: So what is your organization doing?
BRENNAN: Catholic Relief Services is working with our partner here, Caritas Nepal, our Catholic partner on the ground, to provide emergency relief supplies to about 15,000 families in the Gorkha district, which is near the epicenter of the earthquake. And we're trying to ramp up these activities as quickly as possible before the monsoon season starts in June, when there will be heavy rains and flooding. And there's a lot of fear among communities here about what the monsoon will mean. People ask regularly, will you still be here when the monsoon comes? What will become of our living conditions if we're living out in the elements? And so we're ramping up the shelter supplies, tarps, mats, blankets and living supplies. All of those key items to be able to live with some semblance of dignity and protection are key.
INSKEEP: We've had a lot of coverage of Gorkha, of course. It was this rural area that was utterly devastated by the earthquake. And it was out of communication, at least partly, for quite some time. When you try to send the supplies that you mentioned, is there an easy way to get them there now?
BRENNAN: We do have our supplies in-country or en route, but it's not an easy process for multiple reasons. One is just the isolated nature of these villages. A lot of these areas are accessible only on foot or by helicopter. We're using tractors to get up to the most isolated areas to reach people. And we might be driving off-road - you know, two hours off a main road on a dirt and muddy path. And even at that point, people have walked for two or three hours to get there.
INSKEEP: If people in a devastated area have money to buy food, to buy supplies in the ordinary way, is there any possible they can just do that?
BRENNAN: People already living in isolated places, you have to walk a few hours to get to the closest market to buy things. Well, now those markets are closed. They're destroyed. They're devastated. And so now people have to walk two days or more to get basic supplies. And so the issue of markets becoming available and reopening in these areas is critical.
INSKEEP: Caroline Brennan of Catholic Relief Services, thanks very much.
BRENNAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.