Canada is sending more relief supplies to earthquake-struck Nepal, promising to match donations to a fund specifically set up to help — and defending itself from claims that affected Canadians aren’t getting the assistance they need.
The federal government will match — dollar-for-dollar — all eligible contributions to the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund until May 25, but retroactively to when donations first started streaming in on Saturday.
The government is also deploying relief supplies from emergency stockpiles in Mississauga, Ont., and Dubai to help meet immediate needs, including blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets, hygiene kits, and tarps.
The government has already pledged $5 million in initial aid and has deployed advance elements of Canada’s celebrated Disaster Assistance Response Team.
Saturday’s magnitude-7.8 earthquake, centred outside the capital city Kathmandu, was the worst to hit the South Asian nation of 31 million in more than 80 years and has left more than 3,900 dead.
A Montreal woman trying to get home, meanwhile, said Ottawa isn’t doing enough to help expats and travellers stranded in the stricken country.
Emilie-Anne Leroux said that while other countries have pulled out all the stops to get their citizens home, she and other Canadians haven’t received so much as a phone call from officials despite having registered as being in Nepal.
Leroux, who is in Nepal working for the International Organization for Migration, says that’s left some people feeling neglected and “very panicky.”
“I feel like they haven’t reached out any type of support or help,” Leroux said from the UN House in the capital city of Kathmandu, where she and a handful of other Canadians have been staying and helping to co-ordinate aid efforts.
“It’s just frustrating — compared to the Australian embassy, who have booked hotels, picked up people at their apartments, helped them get their (stuff) out and fly them home if they want to, I think the Canadian government is showing a very poor example of how much it cares for its citizens who choose to work abroad for development.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson said consular officials are trying to get into the country to help, but they are having difficulty getting in.
“We have an honourary consul I know has been working on this consistently since this tragedy has taken place, (and) we’re making every effort to bring in consular officials as well,” Nicholson said.
“They have made two attempts to land at the airport in Kathmandu and on both occasions they have been turned away, but we are determined we are going to get them there.”
Foreign Affairs said there are 462 Canadians registered as being in Nepal, but cautioned that’s only an estimate because registration is voluntary.
Leroux, 28, was trying to get back to Canada to be with her father, who is having heart surgery, when the earthquake hit.
She says the airline could only rebook her on a flight Wednesday and she can’t afford an earlier, pricier ticket.
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs said the government’s Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa and Canadian offices abroad are working with local authorities and providing consular assistance to Canadian citizens.
Francois Lasalle said that to date, the department has deployed six additional people to the affected region and officials continue to try to reach Canadians believed to be in the area.
The Canadian government is sending a disaster assessment team to Nepal and is contributing $5 million to relief efforts, Nicholson’s office said on the weekend.
The assessment team was part of the Disaster Assistance Response Team, known as DART. The military team is designed to deploy on short notice to deal with natural disasters or humanitarian emergencies.
The Ontario government also announced Monday it will contribute $1 million to the Red Cross’s relief efforts in Nepal. Members of legislature also held a moment of silence to honour victims of the deadly disaster.
Some Canadians are still anxiously awaiting news of relatives they hope survived the devastating quake.
Others, like Faye Kennedy’s family, received long-awaited reassurances Monday.
The Ottawa woman was trekking in Langtang National Park and hadn’t been heard of since the earthquake. But her brother-in-law said Monday that Kennedy had been found.
“She is alive, was airlifted from Langtang National Park because of injuries, and is now in Kathmandu. We think she will be okay,” Justin Piche said in an email.
— With files from Terry Pedwell in Ottawa
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press