25 April 2015
As thousands struggle in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, the British Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal.
A powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck an area between the cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara early this morning. An unconfirmed number of lives have been lost.
Many buildings – including historic landmarks – were damaged or even levelled by the quake.
In Kathmandu, at least 50 people have been trapped in a nineteenth century tower that collapsed. Throughout the city, Nepal Red Cross volunteers are already searching for survivors.
The disaster, which sent tremors as far afield as India and Pakistan, is the worst to hit the region in 80 years.
More than six million people living within 100 kilometres of the epicentre have potentially been affected.
The Nepali information minister, Minendra Rijal, told BBC News:"We need support from the various international agencies, which are more knowledgeable and equipped to handle the kind of emergency we face now."
Years of training
But amid such misery, there is one ray of light: the Nepal Red Cross has spent years preparing for just this kind of event.
Across the Kathmandu Valley, hundreds of thousands of people have been given useful earthquake preparedness information. Thousands more have been trained in first aid, and light search and rescue techniques.
There are emergency supply kits – enough for thousands of families – pre-positioned around the city ready for distribution.
And the Nepal Red Cross has even constructed a solar-powered emergency blood bank, which can operate without mains power.
Prepared and ready
Mark South, a Red Cross worker based in Kathmandu, witnessed the disaster unfolding first-hand this morning. He also noticed the major role played by ordinary people and families.
He said: “When this terrible tragedy struck, it was notable that community members were the first to respond.
“After so many years of training and preparing for the worst, they knew exactly what to do.”
Have you lost contact with family members in Nepal following the earthquake? We may be able to help.
Find out more about how Nepal prepares for earthquakes.
How we’re helping in Nepal.
Why is Kathmandu such a vulnerable city?
Watch our video: Earthquake preparedness in Nepal.