Bay Area residents help families in Nepal following quake

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) - Businesses across Silicon Valley and people from Mountain View to Milpitas are doing what they can to help those in the devastated earthquake zone of Nepal.

Nima Sherpa moved from Nepal to Mountain View in 2008 with his wife and son after almost 20 years as a guide on Mount Everest. He was specially trained in high-altitude rescues.

"I'm helpless right now," said Sherpa. "I cannot do anything because it's far away."

So the 36-year-old San Francisco cab driver and co-founder of the California Sherpa Association started raising funds and has already collected $5,000.

He says his phone has been a lifeline to his friends who still work as guides on the world's tallest mountain.

According to Facebook's "Safety Check" service, he sees 86 "friends" are in the earthquake zone, 48 of them are marked safe and 38 others are not marked safe.

Sherpa says he has already heard though that several of those not marked safe are okay.

His is not the only group rallying to help. The Computer Association of Nepal USA, based in the Bay Area, is also raising money and working to develop high-tech tools to help get disaster aid to regions that most need it.

Bineet Sharma co-founded the group in 2007 which focuses on training people in the region for a disaster just like this.

The group provided HAM radios to some hospitals in recent years to help provide communication after a disaster. He says cell phone service has been sporadic in the region and there is not enough bandwidth for everyone trying to make phone calls and send videos.

"The problem right now is people cannot charge their batteries and it's overwhelming," said Sharma. "We're telling everybody don't talk, send SMS."

Information is slowly coming in from more rural regions.

Pradeep Khanal, the President of the Computer Association of Nepal, lives in Milpitas and says his parents survived and at one point prayed together thinking it was the end. But he has still not heard from his grandparents, who live in a more rural area.

"The biggest problem is accessibility," said Khanal. "A lot of people want to help and are trying to help but getting them where they need to be and supplies where they need to be is the biggest challenge."

The Computer Association Tuesday night was hosting a hack-a-thon in San Francisco to create an interactive map to help show where relief is most needed.

In partnership with four other organizations, they have already raised more than $250,000 for earthquake relief.

Companies such as Intel and Facebook are offering some donation match options.