As the death toll climbs in the wake of the devastating magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Nepal, rescue and recovery work is continuing, and Amateur Radio volunteers have been a part of it. The earthquake — said to be the worst in Nepal in 80 years — hit an area between the capital city of Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara. An emergency net had been running around the clock on 20 meters with Jayu Bhide, VU2JAU, as net control station and other stations in India participating. Bhide is the Amateur Radio Society of India National Coordinator for Disaster Communication.
The Nepal disaster has claimed more than 3200 lives and wreaked widespread damage. Many others are missing or have been injured. Hospitals have been flooded with those who suffered serious injuries in the earthquake. Persistent aftershocks continue to terrorize those who managed to escape harm. On Mount Everest an avalanche devastated base camp, and at least 100 climbers were stranded on the mountain. Several mountaineers were reported among the dead.
Hams in India have been among the most active responders. Parts of eastern India also suffered earthquake damage. Within Nepal, members of the Nepal Amateur Radio Society are reported to be active on HF emergency nets as well as on VHF/UHF to handle local traffic.
“The situation in Nepal is getting worse, as tremors continue to strike every hour at a magnitude of 4.7,” Bhide said. The government of Nepal has asked all people to stay out of buildings, as damage is expected to increase. Due to the conditions, emergency communication with 9N1 stations came to a standstill; no communication was possible overnight as the earthquake demolished the building where emergency communication gear was installed.”
He said Satish Kharel, 9N1AA, and his daughter Tej, 9N1DX, were able to return to the air this morning. Both are in Kathmandu. 9N1AA has said he’s operating low power with the help of solar power and coordinating with the Nepal police in Kathmandu. Suresh Upreti, 9N1HA, has been assisting with emergency communication as well. Internet service has been spotty in Nepal at best. So far, there has been no cross-border movement of either radio equipment and radio amateurs.
Sanjeeb Panday, 9N1SP, has indicated that he will be on 21.360 MHz at 1645 UTC, and radio amateurs not involved in the disaster response should avoid this frequency. 9N1SP has intermittent Internet service. He has said that propagation on 20 meters, where an initial emergency net was established was poor, but he has been in contact on 15 meters with Tim McFadden, KB2RLB/T6TM, a Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) member in Afghanistan.
Ironically, McFadden, Kharel, Panday, and others took part in MARS exercises in 2013 and 2014 in which the emergency scenario was an earthquake in Nepal. Army MARS Program Officer Paul English, WD8DBY, said the response to this earthquake followed the procedures trained during those earlier exercises. McFadden had been scanning International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) Global Emergency Center of Activity (GECOA) frequencies for stations in Nepal. GECOA frequencies were established as places to pass emergency traffic. Worldwide GECOA frequencies are 21.360 MHz, 18.160 MHz, 14.300 MHz, 7.240 MHz, 7.060 MHz, 3.985 MHz, and 3.750 MHz.
Nepal’s first Amateur Radio repeater, set up in 2012 by the National Society for Earthquake Technology (NSET), and at least a dozen ham in various locations were reported on VHF. The 9N1KS repeater (434.500 MHz in/145.000 MHz out) is on the NSET headquarters building on the outskirts of Kathmandu. A drill conducted in 2012 indicated good coverage of the Kathmandu Valley.
The US chapter of the Computer Association of Nepal provided technical and financial assistance for the repeater and supplied equipment to use it. The repeater has a battery back-up power source.
The NGO “Humanity Road” is maintaining an updated summary of damage as well as of immediate needs.
“Hams from India and other countries have set an example to provide essential communication during disasters,” Bhida said. “The coordination and cooperation have also demonstrated [there is] one world, one language.” — Thanks to Jayu Bhide, VU2JAU; Jim Linton, VK3PC; Tim McFadden, T6TM; Lloyd Colston, KC5FM; US Army MARS, and others
Hams in Nepal, already in limited supply, continue to turn out to aid in the ongoing recovery from the April 25 earthquake that struck the Himalayan nation. Radio amateurs in neighboring India are also pitching in, and at least two groups of hams from Gujarat, India, are planning to travel to Nepal and set up stations “at critical places,” said Amateur Radio Society of India (ARSI) National Disaster Coordinator Jayu Bhide, VU2JAU. He is planning to set up HF and VHF stations at Gorakhpur, on the India-Nepal border. Joining him will be Ananda Majumdar, VU2AGJ, and Sandip Baruah, VU2MUE.
"Nepal hams are facing a hard situation,” said Bhide, who has been among the net control stations for an HF net initiated in the wake of the disaster.
The Indian hams traveling to Nepal may not be permitted to operate once they arrive, however. In an e-mail to members, ARSI President Gopal Madhavan, VU2GMN, said that Satish Kharel, 9N1AA, confirmed that “individual operators from other countries are not permitted to operate in Nepal, even during the emergency, unless they are part of a government team.” Madhavan said he was issuing the alert for the benefit of anyone planning to cross into Nepal from India and operate there.
Bhide said more Nepalese hams not formerly involved with the disaster response have since joined their Amateur Radio colleagues to volunteer communication support.
One major effort on the part of rescue teams is attempting to locate the missing, as well as to recover quake victims buried beneath debris. More than 4000 people died as a result of the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks. The disaster also has stranded many people, as roads were cut off by landslides and damage.
Earlier today, Sanjeeb Panday, 9N1SP, received support from three other Nepalese Amateur Radio operators — Ajay Bhattarai, 9N1AJ; Aayush Kumar Chaudhary, 9N1AY, and Sudarshan Sharma, 9N1SH. “Dr Sanjeeb and his team continue to operate HF radio out of a local University in Kathmandu, according to a report forwarded to ARRL by Army MARS Director of Operations Paul English, WD8DBY. “Dr Panday and his team were able to send HF radio slow-scan images of the disaster via Amateur Radio to the Army MARS operator in Afghanistan,” English said. The images subsequently were posted to the US Pacific Command response coordination portal, APAN. Tim McFadden, KB2RLB/T6TM, a Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) member in Afghanistan, has been monitoring the emergency traffic. Ironically, McFadden, Kharel, Panday, and others took part in MARS exercises in 2013 and 2014 in which the emergency scenario was an earthquake in Nepal. English said the response to this earthquake followed the procedures used for training during those earlier exercises.
The earthquake — said to be the worst in Nepal in 80 years — hit an area between the capital city of Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara. An emergency net has been running around the clock on HF. Members of the Nepal Amateur Radio Society were reported to be active on HF emergency nets as well as on VHF/UHF to handle local traffic.
And then there's this from the Free Press Journal:
307 from Maha rescued— By | Apr 29, 2015 12:01 am
Another case of Amateur Radio coming into significance "When All Else Fails". If you're not familiar with formal message handling, at the very least, I would advise listening to one of your local VHF/UHF traffic nets. Become familiar with the procedures and formats used for passing third party traffic. The experience you gain via NTS would become very handy should you ever find yourself in a bona fide emergency communications event. Inquire with your local municipal governing body to find out if there's a CERT team set up in your town. If not, perhaps you can meet with the local Director of Emergency Management and discuss the possibility of starting one up.
It's better to be prepared and not needed than to be needed and not be prepared, and not knowing what to do.
72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!