Air industry responds to Nepal earthquake
29 / 04 / 2015
Aid agencies, non-governmental organisations and governments are chartering aircraft to fly aid to Nepal, after the country was hit by an earthquake.
The 7.8 magnitude quake struck on Saturday and the death toll is estimated to have passed 5,000, but could reach as high as 10,000. More than 8,000 people were also injured by the earthquake and aftershocks while eight million people in 39 districts have been affected.
Reports suggest that Tribhuvan Kathmandu International has been congested, but flights are managing to land and aid offloaded.
Aircraft charter specialist Air Charter Service said aid agencies are facing unprecedented logistical challenges in trying to help victims.
ACS group commercial director Justin Lancaster said: "Speaking with major aid agencies, there are grave concerns about the amount of relief goods they will be able to get in.
"One of the biggest problems is that the only international airport in Nepal is Kathmandu, which is a very small airport, with the cargo ramp only capable of handling two or three widebody aircraft at any one time.
"The warehouse is also insufficient and is, apparently, already full, with cargo being offloaded onto the parking areas."
Mr Lancaster said authorities had marked cargo flights as low priority at present and are taking up to four days to grant landing permits for Nepal and overflight permissions for India.
He added that the situation is so bad that the possibility of trucking aid from other airports in the vicinity, such as Calcutta is being considered, but that is also posing its own challenges, including customs issues and the condition of the roads.
Air charter service provider Air Partner said it was looking at options for various governments, NGOs and aid agencies as part of the rescue mission to help people who are believed to have been injured, as well as the numerous foreign nationals stranded in the country.
“We have booked several charter flights carrying search and rescue teams and relief goods, and are just awaiting slots and permits. In order to get the aid the flow of help, the relevant authorities will need to relax their red tape as much as possible, so that the necessary aid is able to get in," Mr Lancaster said.
Air Partner director of freight Richard Smith said: “Since the earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday, our freight, commercial jets and emergency planning teams have been working around the clock to provide charter solutions to move search and rescue teams, shelter and medicines to Kathmandu and the surrounding areas.
“On behalf of a wide range of NGO’s and several governments, we are working hard to support the international relief efforts using our extensive experience in managing passenger and cargo charters in the most challenging environments.”
Air charter Chapman Freeborn said it was also assisting clients in delivering aid cargo to the countries capital, Kathmandu.
“Availability is limited due to restrictions on maximum take-off weight and airport congestion but flights are now arriving from worldwide,” it said.
The Charter Store had also been helping source aircraft for charters.
“Throughout this process we have gained the necessary information about the status and capabilities at Kathmandu airport.
“As you can imagine the situation in Kathmandu is very fluid due to runway limitations, limited handling equipment and facilities.
“The Nepalese government is currently selecting and prioritising the relief missions from all engaged nations and organisations.”
Thai Airways said it was supporting the government sector to send medical teams, rescue teams, and relief supplies to those affected by the earthquake.
The airline has prepared a two part plan that includes arranging a reservation center for those providing relief assistance and transporting cargo shipments carrying relief goods in the aircraft belly.
It has also set up a centre to coordinate with various organisations transporting relief goods and it continues to operate its daily flight on its Bangkok-Kathmandu route, although the service was unable to land yesterday because priority was given to aircraft transporting emergency goods.
Deutsche Post DHL said it had sent its disaster response team out to Nepal, which arrived yesterday.
The response team will provide logistics support to help manage the incoming international aid and handle the goods at Tribhuvan airport for further distribution by local and international organisations to those in need.
DHL Director for Humanitarian Affairs Chris Weeks said: “In the aftermath of a disaster airports can become bottlenecks that delay the distribution of emergency relief supplies.
“In these situations, logistics expertise can make a huge difference in coordinating the incoming supplies, and so save lives by ensuring a swift and organised handling of all aid.”