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Nepalese-Canadian groups rally in aftermath of devastating earthquake

TORONTO - Members of Canada's Nepalese community worrying about relatives in Nepal spent Sunday brainstorming how to get aid to the earthquake-stricken country.Groups of Nepalese-Canadians were banding together to try to kick start aid donations in the aftermath of Saturday's magnitude 7.8 quake that has left more than 2,500 dead.Various Nepalese-Canadian organizations met with Defence Minister Jason Kenney and Nepal's ambassador Kali Pokhrel in Mississauga, Ont., to discuss how to streamline fundraising efforts."There is no one in this community that has not been affected by this tragedy," said Ravi Sapkota, secretary of the Nepalese Canadian Heritage Centre, adding that his parents and extended family had survived but were sleeping outside due to the threat posed by powerful aftershocks.Anil Thapa, president of the Non-Resident Nepalese Association of Canada, said it was decided at Sunday's meeting that money raised by individual organizations would be funnelled through the national association. He also said Kenney had assured the assembled community leaders that the Canadian government would match their contributions.So far, $50,000 has been collected by the community groups, said Thapa. He estimated the Nepalese-Canadian community in Canada to number around 30,000, with most based in the Greater Toronto Area.Gopal Bhandari, president of the Nepalese Canadian Community Services, said the extent of the damage in Nepal — which included buildings, roads and countless cultural relics, such as centuries-old temples — meant significant funding over an extended period of time would be needed to rebuild the afflicted country.About 10 organizations took part in the meeting, said Bhandari, including the Nepalese Canadian Women's Association, the Lali Gurans Sports Club and the United Sherpa Association."This looks like a very long-term fundraising project," said Sapkota. "It's going to take a long time to rebuild."He said groups would focus on reaching out to community members, as well as to the Canadian public at large, to solicit donations.A Montreal woman stranded in Nepal described a scene of chaos at the airport as foreigners tried to leave the afflicted country.Emilie-Anne Leroux said she was in a taxi on the way to the airport to return to Canada to be with her father who was having heart surgery when the quake hit.It felt like the car "had four flat tires at different moments," Leroux said Sunday, adding she thought it was car trouble until the driver stopped at an open area and let her out.It was shaking so much that everyone was holding onto handrails at the side of the street "because we thought we could fall if we didn't hang on," she said.Raphael Slawinski of Calgary was preparing to climb the northern Chinese side of Mount Everest when the earthquake struck."We were resting after a few days up in the mountains, just sort of resting in base camp having lunch when the ground began to sway and when the shaking was at the highest, it was actually hard to stand up," Slawinski said Sunday via satellite phone.Slawinski said he felt two aftershocks shortly after the quake and a third on Sunday. He said the climb has been delayed indefinitely but he added he feels safe where his group is camped.The earthquake, centred outside the capital city Kathmandu, was the worst to hit the South Asian nation of 31-million in more than 80 years.The Canadian government dispatched elements of its Disaster Assistance Response Team on Sunday. They were going to an undisclosed location in order to be speedily deployed to Nepal once it was determined how they could be best utilized.CARE Canada, a non-profit disaster relief charity, said Sunday that emergency specialists from across the world — including a Canadian — were on their way to Nepal, adding that CARE also has over 150 staff already in Nepal.CARE's emergency response co-ordinator in Kathmandu, Santosh Sharma, said staff were putting plans in place to assist up to 75,000 people with temporary shelters, ready-to-eat meals, water purification and toilet construction.The Foreign Affairs Department has said there are 388 Canadians registered as being in Nepal, but cautioned that is only an estimate as registration is voluntary.

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