With the UN estimating eight million people have been hit by the earthquake in Nepal, the prime minister has said getting help to some of the worst affected areas is a “major challenge”. Sushil Koirala said authorities were overwhelmed by appeals for help from remote Himalayan villages left devastated by Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude quake. Rescue teams are still struggling […]
The first supplies of food aid began reaching remote, earthquake-shattered mountain villages in Nepal, as the official death toll of the quake topped 5,500, police officials said.
Frustration over the slow delivery of humanitarian aid boiled over in a protest in the city, with about 200 people facing off with police and blocking traffic on Wednesday.
The protest was comparatively small and no demonstrators were detained.
But it reflected growing anger over bottlenecks that delayed much-needed relief four days after the powerful earthquake, which injured more than 10,000 and left many more homeless.
Police, meanwhile, arrested dozens of people on suspicion of looting or causing panic by spreading rumours of another big quake.
Helicopters finally brought food, temporary shelter and other aid to hamlets north of Kathmandu in the mountainous Gorkha District near the epicentre of Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude quake.
‘We are hungry!’
Entire clusters of homes there were reduced to piles of stone and splintered wood. Women greeted the delivery with repeated cries of “We are hungry!”
While the death toll in the village of Gumda was low – only five people were killed and 20 were injured among 1,300 residents – most had lost their homes and desperately needed temporary shelter, along with the 40kg sacks of rice that were delivered on Wednesday.
Adding to residents’ misery was the rain that has fallen periodically since the quake and has hampered helicopter aid flights.
The UN World Food Program warned that it will take time for food and other supplies to reach more remote communities that have been cut off by landslides.
“More helicopters, more personnel and certainly more relief supplies, including medical teams, shelter, tents, water and sanitation and food, are obviously needed,” said the programme’s Geoff Pinnock, who was coordinating the flights.
With more than eight million Nepalese affected by the earthquake, including 1.4 million who need immediate food assistance, Pinnock said the effort would continue for months.
Police said the official death toll in Nepal had reached 5,491 early on Thursday. That figure did not include the 19 people killed at Mount Everest – five foreign climbers and 14 Nepalese Sherpa guides – when the quake unleashed an avalanche at base camp.
Camping in parks
In Kathmandu, where most buildings were spared complete collapse, many residents – fearing aftershocks – continued to camp in parks and other open spaces.
But people were starting to leave tent cities like those in Kathmandu’s Tudikhel area.
Despite Wednesday’s small protest, there were signs that life was inching back to normal in the capital. Banks opened for a few hours and refilled their ATMs with cash, some shops reopened and vendors returned to the streets.
Planes carrying food and other supplies have been steadily arriving at Kathmandu’s small airport, but the aid distribution process remains fairly chaotic, with Nepalese officials having difficulty directing the flow of emergency supplies.
A man who was freed after being trapped for 82 hours in a collapsed hotel gave details of his ordeal, saying he drank his own urine to survive.
The 27-year-old Khanal, whose foot was crushed under the debris, said he was surrounded by bodies and kept banging on the rubble until a French rescue team pulled him out.
“I am thankful,” he said.