Nepal earthquake relief effort is race against time, says SA aviation missionary

A Nepali lady (right) looks upward in response to loud cracking sounds of falling rock above the Disaster Response Team members and helicopter on the side of a mountain. Falling rock, and landslides are currently a constant hazard in Nepal.

The “very dedicated” Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) Disaster Response Team serving in earthquake-battered Nepal have been working hectic, 7-day weeks since their arrival six weeks ago, says South African aviation Mark Liprini who joined the team at the beginning of June.

He is coordinating the strategic helicopter response service operated by MAF in partnership with Fishtail Air, a Nepali company, to take relief workers to remote mountain villages that were devastated by earthquakes in April and May. Many aid agencies have been racing against the clock to reach people in incredibly remote areas before the onset of the monsoon season.

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

Liprini says that the MAF Disaster Response Team have “set up shop” in a borrowed board room of a local helicopter company from where they have been working non-stop to support hard-pressed aid agencies.

This house is situated in an area where the road is completely cut off due to multiple rock slides. The house was destroyed by a boulder.

He says: “Just this morning I spoke to an aid worker who is supplying medical support to isolated communities, and he said they had just distributed aid to some very remote communities. He said that they were the first help these communities had received since the first earthquake all those weeks ago.

“We are assisting the aid agencies to reach these far flung areas by arranging heavily subsidised helicopter flights to and from these areas that can’t be reached by road at all. So as I am scheduling flights names like Sama, Gorkha, Bihi, Chumling etc. are becoming part of my daily vocab .

“In the same way momo, salted lassi, noodles and rice are becoming part of my daily diet. As a result of our scheduling and coordinating efforts with the agencies and the helicopter company, on average we have one of our two helicopters taking off or landing every 9 minutes throughout the 10 hour day they fly.

Pray for team
“People are getting food, medicine, shelter, help and injured people are getting the care they need. Pray for our team of eight as they pull long hours but are totally dedicated to helping as many people as they possibly can in as short a time possible. The monsoon season will arrive very soon, and not only will this hamper present efforts, but it will bring more suffering as unstable earthen slopes will cause avalanches and potentially more destruction and loss of life.”

Mission Network News reports that the MAF-Fishtail partnership has conducted more than 800 flights to 150 different communities in Nepal. They have helped 48 different aid groups, transported more than 1 100 relief workers, and delivered 131 metric tons of relief supplies.

MAF uses aviation training and technology because in many of the isolated places where they work, it’s the only way to reach the people with God’s love, reports MNN.

Commenting on the impact of the huge relief effort on the people of Nepal, Aid agency Vision Beyond Borders says: “When the teams come in to help, they have the opportunity to share the Gospel with them, not just in word but also in deed. The Nepalese people are very open to the Gospel because of their great need. The team was able to share why they were there to help.”

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