The federal government and Canadian aid groups are marshalling resources to help in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake, dispatching doctors, medical supplies and a military response team to the country.
Four-hundred-and-sixty-two Canadians are in Nepal and have registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs, but the number of citizens in the country is likely higher, as registration is voluntary. It is unclear if any Canadians have been killed or injured; Foreign Affairs spokespeople did not answer questions on the subject Sunday.
The military's Disaster Assistance Response Team has been sent to help. An assessment group, along with search and rescue and medical personnel, departed CFB Trenton Sunday evening bound for the region. The government has further committed $5-million worth of aid, to be dispersed through non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
"The thoughts and prayers of all Canadians are with the many affected by this disaster and we wish a speedy recovery to all those injured," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement. "Our officials in the region are working with Nepalese and Indian authorities to ensure that any Canadians affected by the earthquake are safe and accounted for. In co-operation with international partners, they are also assessing the needs of the affected populations to determine how Canada may most effectively assist with the disaster if asked to help."
Foreign Affairs is warning against non-essential travel to the region. Canadians in Nepal or their friends and family can contact Foreign Affairs' Emergency response centre at 1-800-387-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spokeswoman Diana Khaddaj said extra staff will also be sent to Nepal to help provide consular support to people affected by the earthquake. Asked if the government is aware of any Canadians killed or injured, Ms. Khaddaj wrote in an e-mail: "Additional updates will be provided as they become available."
NGOs, meanwhile, are scrambling to provide assistance to the region, and appealing to Canadians for donations.
The Canadian Red Cross has set up a Nepal Region Earthquake Fund; donations can be made online at www.redcross.ca or by calling 1-800-418-1111.
"This earthquake struck a highly populated area, and we know that emergency relief including shelter, water and health care are urgently needed," Hossam Elsharkawi, director of international emergencies and recovery for the Canadian Red Cross, wrote in a news release. He said that first-aid and search-and-rescue responders from the Red Cross have already been dispatched to areas hit by the earthquake, and more supplies will be brought in shortly.
Spokeswoman Karen Leiva said the Canadian Red Cross also has a medical team ready to deploy and set up an emergency field hospital if needed.
UNICEF Canada's Tiffany Baggetta said the group has raised more than $180,000 so far. UNICEF says there are nearly one million children in Nepal who need help in the aftermath of the earthquake, where they face depleting supplies of food and water, as well as power outages.
The organization is sending emergency supplies, particularly water, sanitation equipment and food, and readying two cargo flights with 120 tons of supplies.
Jacob Kuehn, a spokesman for Médicins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), said the group has sent multiple teams from around the world to Nepal.
Mr. Kuehn said four teams left India's Bihar state Sunday morning for Nepal, while another group of surgeons had departed Brussels for Kathmandu, where it will set up a surgical unit and also dispatch mobile clinics to remote areas. Other teams are heading to the area from Delhi, Amsterdam, Japan and France, Mr. Kuehn said.
Handicap International said it was planning to provide post-surgery rehabilitation to injured people in Kathmandu's two main hospitals, as well as bringing in medical equipment.
"We are lucky and strong to be a worldwide movement, that's why we can react quickly in the first hours of a disaster with our own funds, but believe me, consequences in the next days and months will need a huge mobilization, from Canada and from everywhere," the director-general of the organization's Canadian arm, Jérôme Bobin, said Sunday.