With Only One Runway, Kathmandu's Airport Hinders Earthquake Relief There's gridlock at Nepal's international airport. That has complicated efforts to get goods and supplies into the country after Saturday's earthquake.
NPR logo

With Only One Runway, Kathmandu's Airport Hinders Earthquake Relief

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/403231812/403231813" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
With Only One Runway, Kathmandu's Airport Hinders Earthquake Relief

With Only One Runway, Kathmandu's Airport Hinders Earthquake Relief

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/403231812/403231813" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It has the feel of a miracle. In Nepal, rescue crews pulled a survivor from the rubble today five days after the deadly earthquake. Plucked from the debris, a 15-year-old boy shown in videos looking dirty and very tired. Aid continues to flow into the country, though not as fast as people would like. One challenge is Nepal's only international airport in Kathmandu. As NPR's Russell Lewis reports, it's tiny and cannot accommodate all the planes flying in.

RUSSELL LEWIS, BYLINE: Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport was bustling this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR HORNS)

LEWIS: Cars streamed in to pick up those who just arrived. Most of them are aid workers. Several people from the Norwegian Red Cross were loading a van with big, metal trunks. They're filled with medical supplies that they plan to take to a small town about three hours away. Haavaard Gngsaas says the earthquake destroyed many homes and damaged the town's medical facility.

HAAVAARD GNGSAAS: We are supposed to build a field hospital to give a hand to the local hospital. That's our job.

LEWIS: Not far away, Anna Tyszkiewicz was coordinating her team from the Leger Foundation. She's just arrived from Montreal, Canada, and was sorting out how to join up with her partner organization that's been in Nepal for a few days.

ANNA TYSZKIEWICZ: We're going to be distributing water filters and installing rain fresh units in people's houses and things like that.

LEWIS: One thing complicating the relief effort is some groups show up and don't know what to do or where to go to provide help. Lisa Rudolph had just landed from Washington, D.C. She's with the American Red Cross, and logistics are their biggest concern.

LISA RUDOLPH: Even when there wasn't disaster here, there were - I mean, it's just really difficult to get around. Even within Kathmandu itself, it would take an hour to get from one point to another. And so now with roads blocked and the airport really congested and flying in relief goods, it's, I think, going to be really difficult.

LEWIS: Getting those goods into the country has been problematic. The airport has just a single runway, which has closed several times for earthquake repairs. Also there are limited places for planes to park. So many days, pilots circled for hours waiting for another plane to take off because there's just no room. This has slowed the recovery effort. A terminal duty officer, who wouldn't give his name because he's not allowed to talk to the media, says the situation is bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).

LEWIS: "They have not allowed any person from the media to get in and report on this issue," he says. "It's a mess here. We have not been able to settle anything." You can see the problems on the other side of the airport at the Humanitarian Staging Area.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRACTOR)

LEWIS: Tractors pull in and drop off supplies.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Foreign language spoken).

LEWIS: Members of Nepal's military load up a truck with hundreds of small donated tents. There were also some stocks of bottled water and dry food, but these massive storage tents are almost empty. There is so little here. Some has already been distributed. Sagar Mani Parajuli is joint secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is coordinating Nepal's relief efforts. They don't have enough supplies. First thing they need, he says, tents.

SAGAR MANI PARAJULI: Tent first. Dry foods, like noodles, biscuits, and blankets.

LEWIS: How can his country recover, he asks, from the worst earthquake to hit the region in more than 80 years when they simply don't have what they need. Russell Lewis, NPR News, Kathmandu.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.