Pope's representative in Kathmandu offers Mass for victims as aid groups mobilize
The Catholic Church’s chief aid officer in Nepal expects the death toll following Saturday’s devastating earthquake to reach 6,000.
"The death toll continues to rise steadily," said Father Pius Perumana, director of Caritas Nepal. "We have reached more than 3,000 dead, but considering the affected districts, we expect the number to reach 6,000 people. Many bodies are still under the rubble, and the army and civil protection teams are fully involved in the rescue operations. It is estimated there are already 5,000 injured and thousands are displaced and homeless."
By Monday evening, the official death toll had exceeded 4,200.
Reports have emerged of a devastated Kathmandu, where people are trapped in high-rise buildings which pancaked during the quake. The World Health Organization said Monday that hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties and injuries from collapsed buildings. Doctors are reported to be treating people in the streets.
Bishop Paul Simick, the Vicar Apostolic of Nepal, the Pope’s representative in Nepal, offered Mass Monday for the victims of the magnitude 7.9 earthquake, which devastated Kathmandu and claimed the lives of some 3,700 people.
"At the moment, Caritas, which has already launched an international appeal, has been distributing aid to survivors, such as food and water. Our job is also to encourage people," Father Perumana told Fides news agency. "The estimates on victims and affected people are still uncertain since many remote areas affected by the earthquake are not reachable. We are still in a state of emergency."
He noted that because the earthquake occurred during the day and during a public holiday, many people were outside, a situation that may have avoided an even higher number of casualties.
However, according to UNICEF, there are already over 900,000 Nepalese children who are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The Catholic humanitarian organization Malteser International is sending first aid workers to provide relief to the suffering. A response team was dispatched to the region on Sunday morning to activate the first emergency relief measures.
“The people in Nepal need urgent help. Medical infrastructure on the ground has been overwhelmed: the hospitals are overflowing and they need medications and supplies. People are digging in the rubble with their bare hands to find victims and family members who have not been recovered yet. Communication on the ground is difficult because infrastructure has collapsed,” said Oliver Hochedez, Malteser International’s Emergency Relief Coordinator.
Many Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries have been damaged. In Kathmandu, a Protestant church collapsed, while 70 worshipers were inside. As reported to Fides, churches, schools and Catholic structures have suffered severe damage.
According to Agence-France Presse, thousands of residents of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, slept outside on rain-soaked streets, as continuing aftershocks instilled fears about any buildings left standing.
"We don’t have a choice, our house is shaky. The rain is seeping in but what can we do?," said 34-year-old shopkeeper Rabi Shrestha as he camped out on the roadside. "I don’t know why the gods want us to suffer like this."
Many were trying to leave the city, according to Reuters: roads leading out of Kathmandu were jammed with people, some with babies in their arms, trying to climb onto buses or hitch a ride aboard cars and trucks to the plains.
The earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, burying part of a base camp and killing at least 18 people. One was a nurse from Edison, New Jersey, Marisa Eve Girawong, who was serving as a physician’s assistant at the Mount Everest base camp.