Military flight whisks Canadians out of Nepal

RCAF Nepal

KATHMANDU, Nepal – An RCAF plane carrying approximately 100 people who survived a massive earthquake in Nepal arrived in New Delhi late Wednesday, the Canadian government said.

On board the C-17 transport were both Canadians and people from other countries, while an additional 70 Canadians have since left Nepal on commercial flights, Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson said in a statement.

The plane arrived in Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital, early Wednesday morning, carrying elements of the government’s Disaster Assistance Response Team to assist in a crisis the United Nations estimates is affecting 8 million people.

A second C-17 is also on the way, carrying 51 Canadian Forces members, including medical staff, as well as a military ambulance and forklift and other supplies to be used by the response team in the aftermath of last weekend’s quake.

The plane will then be used to get more people out of the country, the government says.

“Officials are on the ground and co-ordinating rescue efforts with our allies whose helicopters and assets are in the area,” Nicholson’s statement said.

“Our consular officials are providing the last known co-ordinates of Canadians in remote areas to our allies and, despite the challenges, we will continue to provide assistance to those who may be stranded.”

In 2013, more than 12,000 Canadians visited Nepal, according to that country’s tourism agency, most for holidays or mountaineering expeditions.

Foreign Affairs has said 338 Canadian were registered as being in the country, but it is only an estimate as registration is voluntary.

Those Canadians who are now in India will be given consular assistance, transportation, lodging and medical assistance, Nicholson said.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake, centred 80 kilometres from the capital, hit on April 25.

Nepalese police said Wednesday the death toll from the quake had reached 5,045. Another 61 died in neighbouring India, and China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported 25 dead in Tibet.

The disaster also injured more than 10,000, police said and left thousands more homeless.

In addition to the disaster response team, the Canadian government has pledged $5 million in humanitarian assistance and is also matching donations from citizens until May 25.

Canada’s diplomatic presence in Nepal is limited but staff from the High Commission in Delhi have been sent to Kathmandu and a consular service point has been established at the Phora Durbar American Club.

Planes carrying food, shelter and other supplies have been arriving steadily at Kathmandu’s small airport, but the aid distribution process remains fairly chaotic, with Nepalese officials having difficulty directing the flow of goods.

The U.N. World Food Program warned that it will take time for food and other supplies to reach more remote communities that have been cut off by landslides.

“More helicopters, more personnel and certainly more relief supplies, including medical teams, shelter, tents, water and sanitation and food, are obviously needed,” said the program’s Geoff Pinnock, who was co-ordinating the flights.

With more than 8 million Nepalese affected by the earthquake, including 1.4 million who need immediate food assistance, Pinnock said the effort would continue for months.

About 200 people blocked traffic in the capital Wednesday to protest the slow pace of aid delivery. The protesters faced off with police and there were minor scuffles, however no arrests were made.

Police did arrest dozens of people on suspicion of looting abandoned homes as well as causing panic by spreading rumours of another big quake.

— With files from The Associated Press