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British Columbians caught in Nepal earthquake pledge to stay and help

WATCH: Some British Columbians are trying to track down loved ones in Nepal.

“Everyone’s sleeping on the sidewalks.”

Dr. Sanjivan Mahara, a Nanaimo dentist, travelled to Nepal to help a local charity and visit family members.

Today, he’s just happy those family members are still alive.

“They’re fine,” he said. “They’re now just kind of camping, and trying to make a nice time out of the bad time. They’re staying together and staying as cheerful as possible.”

As he surveys the immense damage in the country of his birth, Mahara is hoping to connect with other Canadians to assist in the massive recovery and rebuilding efforts that lie ahead.

“My return flight is this coming Thursday but I’d like to stay and help out,” he said. “I’d like to connect with a Canadian team and other agencies.”

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Mahara isn’t the only British Columbian in Nepal wanting to help.

READ MORE: 18 B.C. firefighters leave to help with search and rescue in earthquake devastated Nepal

Bruce Smith says they have a travel agent booking any flight that might get their son Carson and his friends back home to B.C. The three friends, who landed in Kathmandu just before the earthquake hit, have other plans.

“We told them they had reservations to get out possibly Tuesday and Wednesday, they replied if there’s anyone who needed to get out they should get out. They can always get out later. They don’t need to be the first people out.”

Carson Smith, Carson Hewlett and Greg Hwang are currently staying in a tent camp set up by the U.S. Embassy. The trio try to keep in touch with their families, having to travel at least 12 blocks from the camp to get a Wi-Fi signal so they can message home.

“We’d like to get them home…the mental aspect of it, this is pretty tragic for a 23-year-old to see this kind of death on the streets, the burning of the people, hearing the screams of the people still buried,” said Bruce Smith. “That’s what we’re worrying about.”

The trio are hoping to stay at least another week to help link with Canadian and American ground efforts. Their parents have reluctantly agreed, giving them the strict conditions that they should stick together and stay in Kathmandu.

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WATCH: Canada helps with Nepal earthquake relief

Damage immense, but donations great

More than 4,000 people are confirmed dead in Nepal after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit on Saturday, the worst earthquake to hit the country in more than 80 years. Strong aftershocks were still being felt Sunday, including one with a magnitude of 6.7.

Many people have seen their homes destroyed. Others, scared by the continuing aftershocks in the tiny mountainous country, have opted to live outside to avoid the possibility of suddenly being buried under rubble. Electricity is minimal, and the tent cities and decomposing bodies are becoming a potential health hazard.

“There are so many dead people, and decomposing of the bodies,” says Anil Pradhan, President of Nepal’s Cultural Society of BC. “There is no water in Kathmandu. No sanitation. There may be a health hazard. People are scared to go inside the house because aftershocks are happening constantly.”

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He said a candlelight vigil is planned for the Vancouver Art Gallery on April 29, and in Surrey’s Holland Park on May 1. And on April 30, Cafe Kathmandu on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive is holding two dinner events, with all the proceeds going to assist recovery efforts.

READ MORE: How Canadians can help the victims of the Nepal earthquake

“There’s so many stepping up and giving support, and we are grateful for all the help,” said Pradhan.

So far, the Canadian Red Cross has received more than $1.8 million in donations.

“It’s been tremendous,” said Elysia Dempsey, a member of the Red Cross’ Disaster Management Program. “Our call centres and online donations have been significantly busy. Donors are so generous here in B.C.”

“People want to do the right thing. When they see another human being suffering, they want to help support, and often they want to give, to donate, to do something to help those in need.”

The federal government has also said it will match dollar-for-dollar all eligible contributions to the Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund until May 25, in addition to the $5 million in initial aid already given.

It gives Pradhan comfort. But he knows there will be days of sadness ahead, no matter how generous British Columbians are.

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“I’ve talked to many people whose loved ones are fine, but we already have 4,000 dead people, and there will be many more.”

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