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Friday 30 September 2016

Nepal's PM says quake death toll could reach 10000

Sanjeev Miglani and Rupam Jain Nair

Published 28/04/2015 | 15:47

A man walks through rubble of houses damaged by the earthquake in Bhaktapur near Kathmandu Credit: Menahem Kahan
A man walks through rubble of houses damaged by the earthquake in Bhaktapur near Kathmandu Credit: Menahem Kahan
Nepalese women walk past the rubble of buildings destroyed by the earthquake Credit: Menahem Kahan

The death toll in Nepal could reach 10,000, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has said as the government struggles to reach survivors in mountainous areas.

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The government has yet to assess the full scale of the damage wrought by Saturday's 7.9 magnitude quake, unable to reach many mountainous areas despite aid supplies and personnel pouring in from around the world.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told Reuters the death toll could reach 10,000, as information of damage from far-flung villages and towns has yet to come in.

Read More: Nepal quake: Shortage of helicopters hinders rescue efforts outside capital

That would surpass the 8,500 who died in a 1934 earthquake, the last disaster on this scale to hit the Himalayan nation.

Damaged houses are seen from an Indian Army helicopter following an earthquake in the Nepal Credit: Sajjad Hussain
Damaged houses are seen from an Indian Army helicopter following an earthquake in the Nepal Credit: Sajjad Hussain

"The government is doing all it can for rescue and relief on a war footing," Koirala said. "It is a challenge and a very difficult hour for Nepal."

In Jharibar, a village in the hilly Gorkha district of Nepal close to the quake's epicentre, Sunthalia dug for hours in the rubble of her collapsed home on Saturday to recover the bodies of two of her children, a 10-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son.

Another son aged four miraculously survived.

Read More: Offers of help reveal subtle brand of disaster politics

In Barpak, further north, rescue helicopters were unable to find a place to land. On Tuesday, soldiers had started to make their way overland, first by bus, then by foot.

Army helicopters also circled over Laprak, another village in the district best known as the home of Gurkha soldiers.

A local health official estimated that 1,600 of the 1,700 houses there had been razed. Helicopters dropped food packets in the hope that survivors could gather them up.

Read More: Families' desperate pleas for missing Irishman as Nepal death toll passes 4,000

Rescue officials search through rubble Credit: Menahem Kahan
Rescue officials search through rubble Credit: Menahem Kahan

In Sindhupalchowk, about 3.5 hours by road northeast of Kathmandu, the earthquake was followed by landslides, killing 1,182 people and seriously injuring 376. A local official said he feared many more were trapped and more aid was needed.

"There are hundreds of houses where our people have not been able to reach yet," said Krishna Pokharel, the district administrator. "There is a shortage of fuel, the weather is bad and there is not enough help coming in from Kathmandu."

International aid has begun arriving in Nepal, but disbursement has been slow, partly because aftershocks have sporadically closed the airport.

According to the home (interior) ministry, the confirmed death toll stands at 4,682, with more than 9,240 injured.

Read More: Dublin climber was just yards away from Google executive killed on Everest

French rescue workers walk among earthquake debris as they look for survivors Credit: Nicolas Asfouri
French rescue workers walk among earthquake debris as they look for survivors Credit: Nicolas Asfouri

The United Nations said 8 million people were affected by the quake and that 1.4 million people were in need of food.

Nepal's most deadly quake in 81 years also triggered a huge avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least 18 climbers and guides, including four foreigners, the worst single disaster on the world's highest peak.

All the climbers who had been stranded at camps high up on Everest had been flown by helicopters to safety, mountaineers reported on Tuesday.

Up to 250 people were missing after an avalanche hit a village on Tuesday in Rasuwa district, a popular trekking area to the north of Kathmandu, district governor Uddhav Bhattarai said.

A series of aftershocks, severe damage from the quake, creaking infrastructure and a lack of funds have complicated rescue efforts in the poor country of 28 million people sandwiched between India and China.

Read More: Death toll exceeds 4,000 as aftershocks terrify survivors

An Indian school child collects funds for victims of the devastating earthquake in Nepal Credit: Indranil Mukerjee
An Indian school child collects funds for victims of the devastating earthquake in Nepal Credit: Indranil Mukerjee

In Kathmandu, youths and relatives of victims were digging into the ruins of destroyed buildings and landmarks.

"Waiting for help is more torturous than doing this ourselves," said Pradip Subba, searching for the bodies of his brother and sister-in-law in the debris of Kathmandu's historic Dharahara tower.

The 19th century tower collapsed on Saturday as weekend sightseers clambered up its spiral stairs. Scores of people were killed when it crumpled.

Elsewhere in the capital's ancient Durbar Square, groups of young men cleared rubble from around an ancient temple, using pickaxes, shovels and their hands. Several policemen stood by, watching.

Heavy rain late on Tuesday slowed the rescue work.

Read More: 'Earthquake tourism' - Photos emerge of people taking selfies in front of damaged landmarks

In the capital, as elsewhere, thousands have been sleeping on pavements, roads and in parks, many under makeshift tents.

Hospitals are full to overflowing, while water, food and power are scarce.

There were some signs of normality returning on Tuesday, with fruit vendors setting up stalls on major roads and public buses back in operation.

Officials acknowledged that they were overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.

"The big challenge is relief," said Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudel, Nepal's top bureaucrat. "We are really desperate for more foreign expertise to pull through this crisis."

India and China, which have used aid and investment to court Kathmandu for years, were among the first contributors to the international effort to support Nepal's stretched resources.

Reuters

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