A hundred Maldivians awaiting evacuation in Nepal

Nearly a hundred Maldivian students and their families are awaiting evacuation from Nepal after Saturday’s earthquake which has killed over 3000 people and left thousands more injured and homeless.

All Maldivians are safe, the foreign ministry has confirmed.

Foreign minister Dunya Maumoon says flights are on standby for clearance from India to use the country’s airspace, according to Haveeru. 

Majority of the Maldivians in Nepal are at the capital Kathmandu’s police academy grounds, and will be brought back within 48 hours, a senior official at the foreign ministry told Minivan News.

The Maldivian honorary consul in Nepal is providing food, water and blankets, the foreign ministry has said.

Some 14 Maldivians in south eastern Biratnagar have crossed over to India. The foreign ministry said it has faced some challenges in tracking down all Maldivians in Nepal, and said the consul is transporting Maldivians in other areas of the country to Kathmandu.

The Islamic ministry is also allocating funds from its Zakat fund for evacuation, the foreign ministry said.

President’s office spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz tweeted last night that the evacuation flight is sponsored by the tourism industry.

Nepal was struck with a 7.8 magnitude on April 25. Recent reports from the BBC suggest that the official death toll will climb as rescue efforts continue. Thousands of people are believed to be trapped under rubble. The earthquake also triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest and damaging its base camp. The quake has destroyed thousands of buildings and historic monuments.

The Maldivian red crescent and the Maldivian medical association have set up a Nepal relief fund to collect money for relief efforts. Many Maldivian medical students in Kathmandu are reported to be helping out at hospitals. 

Telecoms providers Ooredoo and Dhiraagu have announced they will not levy charges for calls to Nepal for the next three days to enable customers to get in touch with family members in Nepal.

President Abdulla Yameen on Saturday sent a message of sympathy to the Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, stating: “At this hour of deep distress, the people of the Maldives stand together with our Nepalese friends, while wishing the recovery efforts every success.”

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party said that the party was “profoundly saddened by the loss of lives, and great damages” caused by the earthquake.


Maldives to provide 86,400 cans of tuna to Japanese quake victims

The President’s Office has said that it will provide Japan with 1,800 cases of Maldivian tuna – amounting to 86,400 individual cans – as ”emergency disaster supplies” for victims of an earthquake and tsunami that has ravaged the country and its infrastructure.

Japan was devastated Friday by an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale and an ensuing tsunami thought to have killed thousands in the Northeastern Miyagi Prefecture alone. However, in the aftermath of the disaster, local news reports have said that the country is also facing a potential meltdown at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima following an explosion at the site, which has since been linked to the earthquake.

The BBC today reported today that Japanese premier Naoto Kan has claimed that the combined natural and nuclear disasters were the “greatest hardships” faced by the country since World War 2, as an explosion was confirmed to have taken place at a reactor at the Fukushima plant.

Amidst the recent hardships that have befallen the country, the office of President Mohamed Nasheed has claimed it will hope to return some of the support it says has been previously received from Japan.

“The Maldives has offered Japan in-kind assistance of 1,800 cases of canned Maldivian tuna to help feed a town affected by the disaster,” the President’s Office said in a statement. “Japan is a stalwart ally of the Maldives and our largest bilateral donor. Our relationship goes back many years with Japan supporting us in many sectors such as education and infrastructure.”

Acting Foreign Minister Aslam Shakir said in a statement that it was right and proper for the Maldives to provide assistance to the people of Japan.

“Japan also helped us when the devastating 2004 tsunami hit the Maldives and so the [country] will stand by Japan during their time of need,” Shakir was quoted as saying.

According to the President’s Office, the tuna shipments are expected to be sent to Japan shortly, where official disaster response teams will receive the supplies.

“The President’s Office noted that the 1800 cases of tuna – worth 1.2 Million Maldivian Ruffiya (US$93,700) – was sent in an attempt to help citizens of the country displaced in the disaster.

”The Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami has claimed hundreds of lives, while over 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes,” it added in a statement.

As the disaster struck on 11 March, President Mohamed Nasheed was also confirmed to have sent a message to Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

”It was with deep shock and sadness that I learned about the powerful earthquake and tsunami that hit parts of Northern Japan causing loss of lives and injury to hundreds of people, as well as extensive destruction to property and infrastructure,” Nasheed said in his message. “The Government and people of the Maldives join me in conveying our deepest sympathy to you, the Government and the people of Japan, and in particular, to those who were directly affected by this tragedy.”


Meltdown fears raised in Japanese tsunami aftermath

Concerns have been raised of a potential meltdown may be taking place in Japan at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, just 24 hours after the country was devastated by an earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale and an ensuing tsunami.

With more than 600 people thought to have already been killed as a result of yesterday’s tsunami, the BBC reported today that a “massive” explosion had taken place at one of two nuclear plants in Fukushima, situated 250 miles northeast of Tokyo. The incident has raised fears of a meltdown, despite claims from Japanese officials that both sites’ container housing had not been damaged.

An earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale hit Japan yesterday, prompting a tsunami warning to be issued for nations in the Pacific Ocean. Media reports today have speculated that the total number of fatalities in Japan alone from the quake and tsunami could stretch into the thousands.

The first earthquake occurred 382 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, reported the US Geological Survey.

According to today’s BBC report, a state of emergency has been put in place at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini power plants by the country’s Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, with engineers now working to clarify if any of the reactors have gone into meltdown after shutdowns had automatically occurred following the earthquake.

Television pictures from Japan have since shown what news sources claim to be the collapse of one of four buildings at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant as a result of the explosion, though no information has been officially confirmed on what part of the site had exploded or the cause behind it.

However, the government representing the Fukushima prefecture in which the plants are based confirmed that radiation levels at the plant during one hour were equal to the normal annual allowable expenditure at the site, the BBC said.

Meanwhile, the Agence France Presse (AFP) news organisation has reported that the Japanese prime minister’s deputy, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, has sent a “hyper rescue team” to the plant site as part of government contingency measures including collecting iodine, which can used in trying to combat radiation sickness.

Following yesterday’s earthquake, tsunami warnings were immediately issued for Japan, Taiwan, Russia and the Mariana Islands, while Guam, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Micronesia and Hawaii were placed at a lower warning level.

Hussein Waheed from the Maldives Department of Meteorology confirmed that a tsunami warning was issued for the Pacific Ocean a minute after the earthquake had struck. No warning had been issued for the Indian Ocean region, he said yesterday.


Maldivian students banding together in Christchurch after quake strikes New Zealand city

The Foreign Minister is in communication with Maldivians in Christchurch, New Zealand, after an earthquake measuring 6.3 of the Richter scale the city killing at least 65 people, toppling buildings, buckling roads and damaged cathedrals with further casualties likely.

CNN quoted New Zealand Prime Minister John Key saying “this may be New Zealand’s darkest day,” during a trip to the area to survey the damage from the quake.

”Frantic rescuers scrambled to reach those trapped in the rubble hours after the earthquake struck. Scores of dazed, bleeding residents wandered streets strewn with debris and chunks of concrete,” said CNN.

“Having experienced received the warm reception of the people of Christchurch at the Partnership Forum only hours before the earthquake struck makes this disaster all the more personal and poignant,” said delegate Donald Manzullo, chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, reported CNN.

New Zealand’s transit authority said it had been unable to reach its staff in Christchurch and at the Lyttleton Tunnel, which is near the epicenter.

A person who witnessed the incident told CNN “it felt like I was running on jelly, we saw a giant rock tumble to the ground from a cliff – a rock that had been there for millennia. It fell on the RSA (Returned Services Association, a veterans’ association) building — it was terrifying.”

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker told Radio New Zealand that the rumbling tossed him across the room. He said the streets were jammed as people tried to get out of the city, and urged people to avoid the water supply.

The New Zealand Police have said that ”Sixty five people are so far believed to have lost their lives in today’s 6.3 earthquake in Christchurch and officials warn this figure is likely to rise.”

Emergency services are continuing to search the central city, particularly the high rise buildings in the central business district, many of which have been extensively damaged, said New Zealand Police on their website.

The Lyttelton raod tunnel road that links the city Christchurch and its seaport, was immediately closed after the earthquake, but was opened later for emergency transportation.

Minivan News spoke to a Maldivian who was recently studying in New Zealand, who said that none of the approximately 30 Maldivians living in the city had been hurt.

”I checked today and no Maldivian was injured during the incident,” he told Minivan News.

A Maldivian studying at Christchurch Polytechnic in the middle of the city told newspaper Haveeru that she ran down the stairs from the fourth floor classroom she was about to enter when the earthquake struck.

“There was dust and smoke billowing from the buildings around, and I saw injured people running. In the midst of the devastation I had to walk back home, which took more than one and a half hours. I was so concerned about my son, as he was home alone,” she said.

Haveeru also reported that some Maldivian families are without water and power, “which would lead them to spend the night without heating, and in cold in a city where the temperature is constantly about 12 degree Celsius.”


Israel trains Maldives in mass casualty management

A team of experts from the Israeli Foreign Ministry are training 35 Maldivian officials in emergency preparedness, with a focus on the management of mass casualties.

The experts from the ministry’s Agency for International Development Cooperation arrived on 27 January to run a two week course drawing on Israel’s experience with emergency response.

“Israel is one of the best in the field when it comes to emergency response,” said Abdulla Shahid, chief coordinator of the Maldives’ National Disaster Management Centre.

Many aid agencies had conducted disaster-response training in the Maldives after the “wake up” call of the 2004 tsunami, Shahid said, “but much of it was ad hoc and it wasn’t run under a proper department until this government came into power.”

He acknowledged while that there was little the Maldives could do to prevent a tsunami, it was possible to prepare for them; “things such as monitoring how you alter the environment and construct buildings. Artificial – reclaimed – islands were the worst hit and suffered the most number of casualties. Male’ is more than half artificial,” he noted.

Earthquakes were also a concern, especially because of the country’s “very poor building and construction standards – God forbid if anything happened.”

“On 15 July 2003 there was an earthquake 270 miles southwest of Addu measuring 7.6 on the Richter scale, which shook the whole of the southern Maldives. So we cannot say we are not an earthquake-prone country,” Shahid said.

“Since the earthquake in Haiti we’ve had to rethink [our approach]. A lot of warning was given by Haiti’s neighbours, particularly by the US Geological Survey. But they were not taken very seriously.”

Shahid also observed that “a quarter of the world’s crude oil travels within 20 miles of the north of the Maldives.”

Terrorist incidents, “especially given the state of the world at the moment”, were not being discounted either, Shahid said.

“In fact, mass casualty scenarios were the main focus of the Israeli training,” he said.


Working with Israel on aid projects was not politically difficult, Shahid said, despite parliament’s no-confidence motion against Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed after he said at a press conference on 15 September 2009 that the the government was in the process of establishing ties with Israel, and he did not see any reason not to pursue it.

Shaheed narrowly survived the no-confidence voting with 37 MPs voting in favour, two short of the majority needed to remove the foreign minister.

Vice president of the Adaalath party Asim Mohamed said the Maldives “should collaborate with anyone willing to help us in our development.”

Shahid meanwhile noted that “we were working with Israel throughout the no-confidence motion.” The issue, he said, “had nothing to do with Israel and 100 per cent with local politics.”

The Israeli trainers had travelled to 18 islands across the country without incident, he explained, “and received warm welcomes and typical island hospitality.”

The government was exploring further training projects with Israel around developing paramedics and agriculture, “two areas in which Israel is state of the art.”


President sends sympathy message to Haiti

President Mohamed Nasheed has sent a message of sumpathy to the president of Haiti René Préval , following the devastating earthquake that hit the city of Port-au-Prince.

The president’s message said “It was with deep shock and sadness that I learned about the powerful earthquake that hit the city of Port-au-Prince causing loss of lives and injury to hundreds of people as well as extensive destruction to property and infrastructure’.

“The Government and people of the Maldives join me in conveying our deepest sympathy to you, the Government and the people of Haiti, and in particular, to those who were directly affected by this tragedy. We would also like to send our sincere condolences to the members of the bereaved families.”

The deadly  magnitude seven earthquake was the worst to hit Haiti in over 200 years. According to the Haitian prime minister, as many as 3 million people have been affected and 100,00 feared dead.