Press briefing by Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development (Paris, 27 April 2015)
THE MINISTER – I gave an update this morning on the toll from the terrible earthquake on Saturday that devastated Nepal, which is in ruins. Unfortunately the human toll is constantly rising. It stands at more than 3,000 dead and very many injured, half of them in the Kathmandu Valley. And we believe it’s likely to go even higher.
The Nepalese disaster management authority, which is working in extremely difficult conditions, is still cut off from many regions of the country, which explains why we must be cautious about the toll. Several strong aftershocks have been recorded since Saturday, and the weather conditions are bad, with heavy rain in Kathmandu. One piece of positive news: Kathmandu airport is operational again and international aid is beginning to arrive.
This morning, in liaison with our teams on the ground, I took stock of the situation of our compatriots and the mobilization of French assistance.
We’ve managed to locate 1,400 French people safe and sound. And in particular, we’ve just found a group of eight trekkers we’d been very worried about.
Sadly, two of our compatriots who were on holiday have died, killed by a landslide in Kathmandu.
Some 10 French people are injured, and we still have no news of 676 of our compatriots, particularly because of the communication difficulties in the country. We’re actively trying to find them, in liaison with the tour operators, because many of them were on holiday.
Over the past 48 hours, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development’s crisis and support unit has dealt with more than 10,000 calls, and I remind you of its number: 01 43 17 56 46.
Yesterday I made sure our embassy in Kathmandu, which was damaged by the earthquake, would receive reinforcement from a [disaster] management team that has travelled from New Delhi. The French school in Kathmandu has been opened to take in those of our compatriots who are without shelter. An advance party of 10 staff from the emergency services and the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Agency arrived from Paris this morning. A jumbo jet is being chartered to transport some 30 more rescuers by tomorrow morning, Tuesday. At the request of the local authorities and the United Nations coordinator, this specialized team will concentrate primarily on the issue of drinking water. The aircraft will also transport several dozen NGO staff and repatriate from Kathmandu those of our compatriots who are in the most vulnerable situations, particularly families with young children and injured people.
We’ve made sure that 40 tonnes of humanitarian aid – among other things, electric generators, tents, medicines, surgical equipment and food supplements – is sent between now and Wednesday evening on a special flight which is also going to carry the NGOs’ cargo. I want to pay tribute in particular to the commitment of the state services and our NGOs. Médecins du Monde, Handicap International and Action contre la Faim are involved in the aid operations and Médecins Sans Frontières intends to deploy an inflatable hospital to treat those injured outside Kathmandu. I also want to highlight the action of Pompiers de l’Urgence international [firefighters’ organization], Electriciens Sans Frontières, Secours Islamique de France and SOS Altitude, which are taking part in these aid operations.
Q. – Have you any further news about the two French victims?
THE MINISTER – Sadly, they were there on holiday and have been killed. They were a couple, one of whom worked in Mme Fleur Pellerin’s office.
Q. – About the situation the injured people are in, are you worried about their prospects for survival?
THE MINISTER – I can’t say, and what we’re trying to do as a matter of priority is locate the 676 French people. This doesn’t mean they’re all in danger. But in the utter, obvious chaos prevalent in that country, which is in ruins, the priority is to assist and make a list of our compatriots. A huge amount of work has already been done and I sincerely thank those who have done it, but there’s still a lot of work to do.