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Nepal Earthquake 2015

Dear Friends of ICIMOD,

ICIMOD would like to express its deep sympathy for all those who have been affected by the recent earthquake affecting Nepal and ICIMOD’s regional member countries. Our deep condolences go out to those families who have faced casualties.

David James Molden

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ICIMOD staff are accounted for and are safe. Some have injuries, several have experienced severe damage to their homes, while others have experienced tragedy in their family or village. It has been a traumatic experience with the earthquake, the aftershocks, sleeping outside, the rain, and the uncertainty. Now the situation seems to be turning as some services have been restored in Kathmandu, and relief and recovery efforts are under way.

We are fortunate that the ICIMOD Headquarters building has suffered only minor damages. Sadly the Bhutan Pavillion collapsed, but the structure of the main building looks sound. Our server was down, but we have been able to get it running again, and we are now able to connect with emails and receive data and imagery.

ICIMOD staff have come together to support relief efforts. Many of the hardest hit mountain areas and villages are places where ICIMOD works, including the districts of Rasuwa, Nuwakot, Kavre, Gorkha, and Sindhupalchowk. Areas on the way to and in the vicinity of the ICIMOD Knowledge Park in Godavari have suffered major destruction, and we are planning to carry out immediate relief work in these areas first.

Immediately after the disaster, ICIMOD formed a team of GIS and remote sensing experts that is coordinating directly with the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Government of Nepal. They have been working around the clock to process and analyse the latest satellite imagery being provided to ICIMOD from space agencies around the globe. The team is mapping pockets of settlements in affected districts and creating profiles of affected VDCs to inform relief operations.

ICIMOD has set up a dedicated webpage to provide the latest maps, data, and information about the situation in Nepal (www.icimod.org/nepalearthquake2015), including links to other relevant sites. The website will be regularly updated.

Unseasonable rain and weather patterns have proven to be one of the greatest challenges to helicopter rescue teams providing aid relief and evacuation assistance in remote areas hit by the earthquake. A team of atmospheric scientists from ICIMOD has set up an office at the airport to provide information to helicopter pilots and dispatchers, including Google Earth 3D images of flight routes to help pilots navigate unfamiliar terrain, identify and recognize destinations, and plan appropriate landing spots.

Landslides have been another major obstacle to rescue and relief operations. Many roads are damaged or blocked, cutting off quake-hit villages from aid and rescue workers. Some slopes may have been destabilized by the earthquake, which could lead to other landslides. There is an urgent need to assess the impact of landslides for immediate rescue efforts and monitor potential hazards in the future. Moraine dams of glacier lakes may also have weakened during the earthquake, which could result in floods that would affect communities downstream. Together with colleagues around the world – in countries like China, Japan, The Netherlands, and the United States – ICIMOD is closely monitoring landslides, glacier lakes, and river courses by analysing the latest satellite images and communicating the latest findings to the Government of Nepal and relief agencies. The threat of further landslides and glacier lake outbursts may increase as snow begins to melt and the monsoon kicks in.

ICIMOD staff have collected supplies and dispatched teams of volunteers to provide immediate relief to nearby villages, including Harisiddhi, Godavari, and Sankhu, and the Centre is exploring ways to support long-term reconstruction in some of the mountain villages where ICIMOD works.

We are thankful for all of the supportive and considerate messages pouring in from our ICIMOD friends and family around the world.

David Molden

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