One year after the Nepal earthquake struck, MAF looks back at one year of facilitating a helicopter relief service, and remains committed to remember, respond, rebuild and restore the nation for as long as we're needed.

Without warning, the ground began shaking. In remote parts of Nepal, homes, schools, and other buildings collapsed. Some people were able to flee, but many were buried beneath the crumbling structures.

Roads and trails disappeared as mountainsides gave way. In some cases, entire communities were buried. Some 8,900 people were killed, 605,000 homes were destroyed, and another 81,000 houses were badly damaged. [1]

'Nepal will forever remember 25 April 2015, when the 7.8 earthquake struck. And then the 7.3 quake followed on 12 May. So many villages and suffering people in the mountains were cut off,' said John Woodberry, MAF disaster response and security manager.

'Aid groups were in Kathmandu wanting to help, but there was no way to get to those remote communities. That’s when MAF was able to step in and, with God’s help, provide a solution.'

‘Thank you for the helicopters bringing food, blankets, clothes and materials so that some of us can continue here through the winter.

Karma Lama, resident of Langtang Valley, Nepal

Help arrives 

Within days of the quake, MAF had mobilised a response team. Through the gifts of many supporters, including a grant from UK Aid, MAF enlisted the services of Fishtail Air, a Nepalese helicopter company.

Working together, MAF and Fishtail provided helicopter transportation for more than 8,000 relief workers from 96 organisations to 340 isolated communities, carrying food, water, shelter, medical aid, and other desperately needed services.  

Buried beneath the rubble

The community of Langtang was particularly hard-hit. Where a thriving village used to be, a huge grey mass of rubble 100 feet deep now fills an entire Himalayan valley. More than 150 people are buried there — about one third of the population of the Langtang Valley. Some 100 families lost their homes.

'Using helicopters to reach the people in Langtang Valley at a small fraction of the true cost is critical for us and we are very grateful to MAF for making our relief and rebuilding ministry possible,' said Johannes, working for OM (Operation Mobilisation) in Nepal. OM has been using its expertise to rebuild shattered homes and improve their earthquake resistance. The organisation is also providing other supplies to help villagers prepare for the hard winter months.

Thankful for the help

Nama Lima, who lost his parents, sister, and home in the landslide that buried Langtang, is grateful.

Another earthquake survivor, Karma Lama, explains why. 'Without OM, we could not stay here. Thank you for the helicopters bringing food, blankets, clothes and materials so that some of us can continue here through the winter.'

MAF’s work in Nepal has transitioned from a disaster response to a rebuilding phase. As so many structures were destroyed in the quakes, it is anticipated that reconstruction will be ongoing for several years. However, MAF’s role in this endeavour may look a bit different.

A future role for MAF   

MAF has a contract to work with Fishtail Air until December 2016. While our partnership with DFID to subsidise helicopter flights has now ended, we still aim to continue to help for as long as it takes.

'The helicopters have been averaging 42 hours of flying per week, so the need is still there,' says Stan Unruh, MAF’s country director in Nepal. 'But many of the people and groups working in the mountains will no longer be able to afford the flights.'

MAF is looking at several options for providing the transportation to these isolated places with so many needs.

'We are considering possible fixed-wing operations in western Nepal. In north-central Nepal we are more likely to use helicopters, due to terrain and needs there,' said Stan. 'We’re looking at several operational models that use helicopters. It could be a logistics model, similar to our current relationship with Fishtail. There is much to be explored and decided.'

One thing is for certain: after several years of seemingly fruitless work in Nepal, God unexpectedly opened a door for MAF. We’ve stepped through it, and are excited to see what He has in store for this country and its people.


[1] USAID Nepal Earthquake Fact Sheet, 23 Dec. 2015

Highlights of MAF's relief in Nepal