After the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday, tech companies are waiving fees on calls to and from the country in hopes of helping people get in touch with loved ones.
Skype has made all calls to and from Nepal completely free. (While calls between two Skype users are always free, normally there are fees when using Skype to call a landline or mobile phone.)
"Since no one knows the full extent of the devastation, we want to help provide people with alternative methods of communication to reach friends and family in the region during this difficult time," the Microsoft-owned video and voice telecommunications provider said in a statement Monday.
Viber, an app that provides discounted international calls, has made all calls to Nepal free. Sprint and T-Mobile are both waiving fees to call or text Nepal. And Google, whose executive Dan Fredinburg died after the earthquake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, reduced the cost of calls through Google Voice from 19 cents a minute to 1 cent.
"We chose 1 cent, instead of making calls free, to prevent spammers from abusing our systems and possibly adding more load to the already stretched Nepalese telephone network," Google said in a blog post Sunday.
Hundreds of people have been reported as missing on a Red Cross site set up to help victims and their families track each other down. As of Monday afternoon, the death toll associated with the magnitude-7.8 quake had topped 4,200.
The tech companies' offers come as people outside Nepal are desperately trying to reach family members there. Bigyan Bhandari, 28, a Nepalese man living in South Korea, told the Associated Press that he was only able to contact his family after dozens of failed attempts.
"I miss my family members ... too much," he said through tears.