LONDON (AP) — World leaders and global charities offered condolences and emergency aid to Nepal following the earthquake Saturday while grappling to understand the scope of the disaster.
With Internet and cellphone communications spotty, and many roads closed due to damage, the outside world does not yet have a clear picture of what is most needed following the earthquake that authorities say has killed at least 1,200 people.
But it is clear that help is needed — and fast.
“We are treating it as a big emergency,” said Ben Pickering, Save the Children’s humanitarian adviser in Britain. “We know the damage is extensive and that access into rural areas will be very, very difficult for everybody.”
Pickering said it is too early for a detailed assessment but that the overall picture is grim.
“Children will be affected in many ways. Physical injuries. Separated from families,” he said. “The priority now is understanding the scale, what the emergency needs are right now and in the coming weeks.”
Some charities are assembling disaster teams — based on the assumption that sanitation, shelter and medical help are urgently required — but the most convenient pathway into Nepal is not available because the international airport in Kathmandu has been shut down by the quake.
Pickering said Save the Children plans to send a specialist team as soon as possible to help with food, water and sanitation in the country, which is one of the world’s poorest.
The European Union is considering “some budget support” to Nepal, according to a joint statement Saturday by the EU’s foreign policy chief, development chief and humanitarian chief. It did not provide details or amounts.
They said the EU is also looking into “how we can help Nepal to deal with the destroyed and damaged buildings and how to help its citizens.”
“The full extent of the casualties and damage is still unknown but reports indicate they will likely be high, both in terms of loss of life, injuries and damage to cultural heritage,” they said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders also promised help for Nepal. Cameron said on Twitter that Britain “will do all we can to help those caught up in it.”
Cameron and Merkel did not specify what aid would be forthcoming, but others were more specific. Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende said the Scandinavian country would allocate 30 million kroner ($3.8 million) to aid work, and that the money would be sent through the United Nations and charitable organizations.
“We are following the situation closely and we will find out whether to contribute further when we know more,” Brende said in a statement.
Italy’s Foreign Ministry said it has made available 300,000 euros ($326,000) of emergency aid for earthquake victims. The aid will be channeled through the International Red Cross.
French President Francois Hollande said France is “ready to respond to requests for help and assistance” from Nepalese authorities.
French aid group Doctors of the World (Medecins du monde) said it has mobilized its workers in Nepal — based in Kathmandu and Chautara to work on maternal and infant health — to help quake victims. It is sending more staffers and medical aid to the region immediately.
Among other countries sending condolences was Mexico, which suffered an 8.1-magnitude earthquake that killed an estimated 9,500 people in the nation’s capital in 1985. Mexico’s foreign ministry said it stood in solidarity with the government of Nepal and the relatives of the earthquake victims.