Audrey Lecomte, Handicap International's head of mission in Nepal, took time on May 13 to explain how the previous day’s 7.3-magnitude earthquake—the second major earthquake to strike the country in three weeks—altered conditions in Nepal. Here's what she said:
Where were Handicap International’s teams when the earthquake struck?
Our teams were scattered around, conducting a variety of different tasks—providing care in hospitals in Kathmandu, setting up a logistics platform in Kathmandu Valley, distributing emergency kits in the district of Nuwakot, and holding strategic meetings in our office.
In Kathmandu, when the earth began to tremble, we all ran outside. It was unexpected. We had to stay outside for two hours, waiting for things to calm down. We followed the news on the internet, on social networks and on the radio. For a long time we weren’t able to get in touch with our teams because the network was saturated, but we finally managed to contact them, which was a relief. Everyone was safe and sound. Some of our teams distributing emergency kits in Nuakot couldn’t leave the villages. They slept outside, under tents, with the villagers.
What did your teams do?
Because we were already present in Nepal (since 2001), and had implemented a relief effort following the first earthquake, we were able to launch an immediate response to this new disaster.
To help people injured by the new earthquake, we deployed ten physical therapists to hospitals in Kathmandu and two physical therapists to a hospital in the countryside in Nuwakot.
After the initial surgical operations had been performed and first aid had been administered, our teams in Kathmandu provided post-operative follow-up care. They also provided post-operative follow-up care in Kathmandu. The mobility aids (crutches, wheelchairs and braces) distributed to hospitals following the first earthquake were also used to help people injured in the second one.
We’re also ready to distribute emergency kits and mobility aids to people affected in other regions of the Nuwakot and Rasuwa districts. Lastly, two teams were set up to assess the needs of people affected by the disaster in Kavre and Kirtipur.
What are the conditions like in hospitals?
During the day, the hospitals are overwhelmed. Because people injured in the second earthquake have been arriving and need care, hospitals have been discharging some patients who were injured in the first earthquake. These patients, who cannot currently go back to their villages, need additional care, particularly in terms of rehabilitation, so it’s vital to ensure they’re followed up.
At night, the hospitals are getting emptied because the patients prefer to sleep outside in tents, for security reasons. We do the same. There were new tremors last night.
How did local people react to the new earthquake?
The earthquake was still frightening, disastrous and caused a lot of chaos, but the Nepalese are well prepared now, and immediately did the right thing by going outside and sleeping under tents. People are talking a lot together, they swap their impressions, in the street or at the street markets.
After the earthquake struck, our teams set to work. We were able to respond immediately. It’s very encouraging.