Army personnel board an Indian Air Force aircraft containing relief materials to be sent to Nepal to provide assistance to earthquake victims at Hindon Air Force Station near New Delhi yesterday.

Agencies/New Delhi

India yesterday dispatched 13 military aircraft to Nepal loaded with tonnes of food, blankets and other aid, stepping up relief efforts to its earthquake-devastated neighbour.
Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said the transport planes were carrying disaster management experts along with medical supplies and other relief material desperately needed in the wake of Saturday’s deadly quake.
“We expect to have 13 military aircraft going to Kathmandu.... Five of these have landed while the others are on their way. By late evening we expect all 13 to land,” Jaishankar told a briefing in New Delhi.
India’s assistance is part of a massive aid effort that has started pouring into Nepal following the quake that has claimed more than 2,500 lives.
Nepal shares close cultural ties with India which was also hit by the quake, killing close to 70 people.
The planes are carrying three army field hospitals along with two tonnes of medical supplies and 10 tonnes of blankets and tents, Jaishankar said.
India has separately pressed civilian aircraft into service to evacuate stranded nationals, many of whom have been camping at Kathmandu’s airport since Saturday.
Jaishankar said the government was still trying to determine how many Indians needed to be evacuated from Nepal.
Earlier yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the first priority was helping Nepal to rescue those still trapped.
“Even now many people buried under the rubble must be alive,” Modi said during his monthly radio programme. “Our effort will be to rescue as many people alive as possible.”  
He said India has started reaching assistance to Nepal, and sent rescue teams with sniffer dogs to save people buried in the rubble.
“We will try to bring out as many people. We are doing relief work and rehabilitation work till take a long time,” the prime minister said.
“For Indians, Nepal’s plight is our plight. We will wipe the tears of every Nepali, hold their hands and give them support,” Modi said.
The government meanwhile issued an advisory requesting media houses to “exercise restraint in speculation about possible aftershocks” in Nepal, as “undue speculation may cause unnecessary panic.”
In an official statement, the government said it was making all efforts to provide relief and evacuate stranded citizens from Nepal.
“In view of the co-ordinated efforts of government of India agencies to evacuate stranded citizens, and to provide relief in the wake of the Nepal earthquake, it is requested that media houses may exercise restraint in speculation about possible aftershocks.
“Undue speculation may cause unnecessary panic complicating relief efforts. The government of India assures that it is making all efforts to provide relief and evacuate stranded citizens in time,” the statement said.
The Indian Under-14 girls football team, left stranded in Kathmandu, have returned home safely aboard a military aircraft.
“The U-14 Girl’s Team has landed safely in New Delhi. Everyone stays safe,” the All India Football Federation (AIFF) tweeted.
Fresh tremors yesterday delayed the evacuation of the team from the earthquake-affected Nepal capital. An aircraft that was to bring the stranded team back was scheduled to leave Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport at 12.30pm.
But fresh tremors led to the flight being delayed, leaving the team comprising 18 players and five officials waiting at the airport.
AIFF president Praful Patel tweeted yesterday that the players would be staying the night in Delhi and will leave for their respective homes today.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had earlier tweeted that evacuating the girls was the government’s priority.
The team was in Kathmandu to participate in the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Regional Championship for the South and Central Zone. It was scheduled to face Iran in a third-fourth place playoff match at 1pm at the Dashrath Stadium on Saturday.
But an hour prior to the scheduled kick-off, the massive earthquake forced the abandonment of the match and the final. India lost to hosts Nepal in the semi-finals on Friday.

Indian toll rises to 70

The earthquake that devastated Nepal killed at least 70 people in India, Home Secretary L C Goyal said yesterday. “The reports as of now indicate 70 casualties have taken place,” Goyal said, adding that 260 people were injured. Among the casualties, 46 people died in Bihar, 13 in Uttar Pradesh and 11 in West Bengal. The home secretary said four teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been deployed in the affected areas. “If they need any more assistance, we have offered all help,” he added.

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