Nepal earthquake: Death toll crosses 5000, hundreds still missing; rescue operations continue

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Kathmandu: The death toll in Nepal’s devastating earthquake could shoot up to 10,000 as rescuers and international aid workers today struggled to reach relief in remote areas of the country which is still battling the aftermath.

Nepal desperately needed tents, water and food supplies, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told an all party meeting briefing the leaders on efforts to rush emergency supplies to those in need.

The death toll could reach 10,000 because information from the affected remote villages is yet to come, Koirala told Reuters.

Three days after the 7.9-magnitude temblor flattened their homes and dwellings, desperate people across Nepal looked for succour from helicopters that criss-cross the Himalayan nation as massive international aid, including from India, poured in.

At least 5,057 bodies have so far been recovered after Saturday’s massive earthquake that struck just outside of capital Kathmandu, a Nepalese police official said. Over 10,000 people have been injured in the quake.

He acknowledged that authorities were over whelmed by appeals for help from remote villages but the administration has been unable to initiate rescue efforts in many areas due to lack of equipment and rescue experts.

Eight million people have been affected by the devastating earthquake, the United Nations said today.

More than 1.4 million need food, while water and shelter are also in short supply, the UN said in a report.

Hundreds of people are still trapped under tonnes of rubble in capital Kathmandu and some of the worst-affected remote mountainous areas.

Koirala has admitted that the rescue, relief and search operations have not been effective. He has urged the political parties to work together in this national crisis.

Meanwhile, Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae today met Koirala and briefed him on the relief and rescue assistance provided by India under ‘Operation Maitri’.

The Prime Minister thanked the Ambassador for India’s swift response on relief and rescue assistance.

“Our assistance so far has included makeshift hospitals, food, water, medicines, search and recuse teams, power restoration team, two engineering teams and more assistance in terms of dry food ration and essential medicines are expected soon,” Embassy sources told PTI.

Indian defence teams are flying to far-flung areas such as Gorkha district where the epicentre of the quake was located.

The Nepalese government has announced nine districts as highly-affected areas.

The government has said that altogether 60 districts have been affected by the earthquake.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Koirala today declared three days of national mourning for the victims of the quake.

“In memory of the Nepali and foreign brothers and sisters and elders and children who have lost their lives in this devastating earthquake, we have decided to observe three days of national mourning from today,” he said in a nationally televised address.

He also thanked the international community for the prompt response to Nepal’s appealfor help.

The quake, the worst in over 80 years, and the subsequent powerful aftershocks have forced people out to live in the open under plastic tents, barely shielding them from cold and rains that have pounded the city.

Nepal had declared a state of emergency soon after the quake.

Three days after the quake hit the country, rescue teams have still not reached some of the worst-affected areas of Lamjung, the site of the quake’s epicentre.

“We are still at the rescue and relief operation. Rescue operation is going on even within the valley, collapsed structures are major challenge still.

“There have been requests from many places, we have been able to attend to some. We are still trying to put together group of people here, expertise is needed from various areas,” Nepal’s Information and Communications Minister Minendra Rijal said.

Mass cremations are being held for the victims of the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal, even as rescuers continued to pull out bodies buried under the rubble of flattened homes and buildings.

Hundreds were cremated in open grounds as funeral pyres burned with families of victims wailing in grief after losing their loved ones.

Nepal has issued epidemic and health warnings, media reports said.

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