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Tuesday, April 28

Almost

I'm giving this update to Cold-blooded Earthquake Politics ...  it's own post; this for readers who wondered why I addressed my plea to Nepal's President rather than the Prime Minister.  Plus it provides news on the government's latest position on search and rescue teams.

UPDATE 3  - 7:30 PM EDT (see end of post for first two)
Nepal's Prime Minister, Sushil Koirala, was out of the country when the earthquake struck and from this 4/25 NDTV report, India's PM Modi couldn't make contact with him on the day of the quake, so Modi offered condolences to the country's President, Ram Baran Yadav. It was unclear to me from subsequent reports when Koirala returned to Nepal, but it looked as if Yadav, at least in early hours of the crisis, was in the hotseat when it came to decisions about which foreign search and rescue teams to admit to the country. 

The issue may or may not be water under the bridge at this point.  There is a big 'fog of war' element about the entire crisis, which is understandable, of course, given conditions in the country.  But from this Reuters report today, updated at 7:00 PM EDT, and from a few statements sprinkled in other reports today, it almost seems as if there's confusion or a disagreement behind the scenes about the issue of the foreign S and R teams. Reuters writes:
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told Reuters the death toll could reach 10,000, as information on damage from far-flung villages and towns has yet to come in.
 "The government is doing all it can for rescue and relief on a war footing," Koirala said. "It is a challenge and a very difficult hour for Nepal."
Then --
Nepal told aid agencies it did not need more foreign rescue teams to help search for survivors, because its government and military could cope, the national head of the United Nations Development Programme told Reuters.
"Nepal told" is diplospeak, which I myself had to fall back on in the original post because it wasn't clear who was in charge at the time.  

Other passages in the Reuters report discuss the amount of time that's passed since the quake, with one foreign aid worker noting that by day 5 the chance of finding buried survivors is zero. More or less true, although many people buried in rubble have survived longer if they're lodged in an air pocket and have access to water. But with ongoing severe aftershocks, mudslides burying at least one village, etc., there still seems a need for S and R teams. 

More to the point, search teams aren't only needed for those buried alive.  An earlier Reuters report (see first update, below) discusses Nepalis, angry at no help in sight (and still in shock from the quake), digging with their bare hands through rubble to find bodies of relatives.  Many bodies are still missing, and if Koirala's estimate of the dead is near the mark there will be a need in the coming days for as many foreign search teams as the country's international airport can accept.     

As I mentioned in the original post, I also think it would have been a very good move to bring in the Taiwanese S and R team at the early stage because their network of Buddhist contacts in Nepal would have been a force multiplier. 

But it's too late now for the early stage, and at this point parsing the meaning of official utterances is a waste of time and almost cruel in the context of the crisis. Almost. 

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