Desperate survivors and police clash as frustrations with aid effort boil over
Clashes between police and desperate survivors broke out in Kathmandu yesterday as tempers frayed in the wake of the earthquake that has so far claimed more than 5,000 lives.
Frustration over the pace of the aid operation has been building on the streets of Nepal's capital where tens of thousands of people are sleeping rough in 16 makeshift refugee camps following the 7.8-magnitude quake.
Those frustrations boiled over into scuffles at the city's main bus station yesterday, where furious passengers were trying to leave the capital for their rural homes.
"We don't want to die. We just want to get out of this valley now," shouted Dependra Sharma (26), who returned home to Nepal recently after five years living in London, where he studied at a college in Hammersmith.
"It is risky here in Kathmandu," Mr Sharma added, referring to the powerful aftershocks from Saturday's earthquake. "You can see the dead bodies, stinking. There is no water for the people.
"There is no electricity. There is nothing at all. The people, they may die of hunger. Nothing has come to the common people."
Similar complaints could be heard across Kathmandu, with residents criticising the slow pace of the government's response. Rajesh Bhandbari (32), a Nepalese singer whose uncle died in the earthquake, said: "Our ministers are safe in their residences. There is no sign of them. We have got so much donation from outside countries. They help us. But we have not got one rupee from the Nepalese government." Yesterday's scuffles appear not to have been the first.
Ramesh Oli, a 30-year-old shopkeeper at Kathmandu's bus station, said there were similar outbreaks of violence throughout Tuesday.
"They started throwing stones," he said of those crowds. "The police came and started hitting the people with sticks to disperse the mob. The bus yard was full of people. Many, many." Sanu Ram Bhattarai, a Kathmandu police chief, said the situation was "under control". "[There was] no riot, no riot. It was only a few people demanding vehicles," he said. "The security situation is OK."
Nepal's government accepted mistakes had been made. "There have been some weaknesses in managing the relief operation," Minendra Rijal, the communication minister, told Nepal's Kantipur Television. "The disaster has been so huge and unprecedented that we have not been in a position to meet the expectations of the needy people. But we are ready to accept our weakness, learn and move ahead in the best way possible."
Such apologies did little to impress Kathmandu's homeless masses as they prepared to bed down for a fifth night on the streets.
Meanwhile, Trekkers stranded by an avalanche in Nepal fought for food and for places on rescue helicopters after being denied shelter by locals in the aftermath of the earthquake.
Up to 250 people were initially feared missing yesterday after an avalanche hit a village in Langtang, a national park north of the capital Kathmandu. However, after a series of checks there were no confirmed deaths or serious injuries.
Hundreds of trekkers, many of them cold and hungry, were unable to make it back to safety because roads and paths had been blocked, while some guest houses damaged in the quake shut their doors to visitors.
"We were sitting in our tent when suddenly a boulder of ice fell on it," Israeli trekker Lily Milkovich said.
"After a few minutes, we found that some of our friends had been buried under the snow. Once we felt we were safe to help them, we started pulling them out," she said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)