People stranded in remote villages and towns across Nepal were still waiting for aid and relief to arrive on Tuesday, four days after a devastating earthquake destroyed buildings and roads and killed more than 4,600 people.
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.
That would surpass the 8,500 who died in a 1934 earthquake, the last disaster on this scale to hit the Himalayan nation.
“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.
Hundreds killed in landslides
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.
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.
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.
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