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Red Cross, Nepal firm launch emergency texting service


"NASA Landsat 7 Nepal" by Originally uploaded by Tatiraju.rishabh (Transferred by Okino) - Originally uploaded on en.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

“<a href="">NASA Landsat 7 Nepal</a>” by Originally uploaded by <a class="extiw" title="en:User:Tatiraju.rishabh" href="//">Tatiraju.rishabh</a> (Transferred by <a title="User:Okino" href="//">Okino</a>) – Originally uploaded on en.wikipedia. Licensed under Public Domain via <a href="//">Wikimedia Commons</a>.

The Red Cross and a Nepalese telecom firm launched an emergency texting service on Monday to send out real-time updates on aid distribution and weather warnings across the quake-hit Himalayan nation.

The free messaging service, set up by the charity and mobile network provider Nepal Telecom, will target users according to their location, offering them potentially “life-saving” information on weather and health hazards in time for the approaching monsoon.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake sparked avalanches and landslides in northern Nepal, including on Mount Everest base camp, and killed more than 8,000 people, leaving thousands more homeless and in desperate need of food, clean water and shelter.

“As earthquake survivors battle to recover from this disaster, they are now faced with (the) prospect of the monsoon season which is just weeks away,” said Dev Ratna Dhakhwa, Secretary General of the Nepal Red Cross.

“This life-saving service provides real-time information and warnings on flood risks, disease outbreaks and health advice to geographically targeted communities at the touch of a button,” Dhakhwa said in a press release.

According to the country’s telecom authority, 87 percent of Nepalis use mobile phones, with Nepal Telecom boasting around 11.9 million subscribers.

However, network coverage in the country’s remote, mountainous villages remains weak, with frequent disturbances during the heavy monsoons, expected to begin next month.

The Red Cross’s text messaging system was used in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak, with plans to bring the service to 40 other disaster-prone nations.

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