Initial assessments coming in from Red Cross field workers in Nepal indicate this morning's earthquake that hit north-east of Kathmandu has led to people being trapped beneath collapsed buildings.
The Nepalese government said at the time of writing at least 20 are dead and 1,000 injured.
John Roche Head of the Irish Red Cross International department and former Head of Disaster Management for the Nepal region said: "Our preliminary reports show that several houses in Bhaktapur and Lalitpur Districts have been damaged”
"Many people are injured in Lalitpur where a hospital has collapsed. We are also hearing of people in parts of the Kathmandu valley trapped under the rubble.
"Roads in some areas in Kathmandu are blocked due to fallen electricity poles. The electricity supply is down with telephone service partially working. Almost all people in Kathmandu valley have temporarily left their houses and are once again staying either in roadside or open spaces.
The Nepal Red Cross has mobilised first aid teams in Kathmandu Valley and team members are providing services to the injured. Red Cross Ambulances have been mobilised and are bringing the injured to hospitals."
Aftershocks and the onset of monsoon season are causing deep concern for relief strategists, and according to Mr Roche the deployment yesterday of a disaster-relief SMS system, TERA*, developed by the Irish Red Cross and Trilogy in Haiti in 2010 will have an important role to play.
"A lot of people are living in camps and open spaces without proper sanitation. When water gathers and becomes stagnant it becomes a breeding ground for diarrhoea and cholera - as we saw in Haiti in 2010. With the monsoon season beginning next month, more water means more likelihood of disease and illness spreading.
"So the SMS system means we can send out awareness messages and advice to those affected by the quake. With the effects of aftershocks from today's quake so unpredictable, we really are now up against time to get people into secure accommodation with proper sanitation," Mr Roche said.
* The TERA (Trilogy Emergency Relief Application) system was developed by Irish Red Cross delegate Will Rogers and Trilogy International, the parent company of one of Haiti’s phone service providers. The TERA application allows targeted two-way communication between disaster-affected people and the Red Cross.
The location-targeted system sends texts with flood and hazard warnings, health advice and updates on earthquake aid provision. Nepal Telecom will reach more than 1.1 million users initially. The system can also be used to gather information through simple questionnaires which will inform and improve the effectiveness of Red Cross activities.
TERA technology has been used by the Red Cross in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake, in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak and in Pakistan following flooding in 2012 and is being rolled out in 40 disaster-prone countries. It is a particularly important tool for contacting people in remote areas.