By: Rakesh Sinha & Yubaraj Ghimire
Turning the spotlight on reaching relief to areas devastated by earthquakes last weekend, Nepal is asking countries not to send more search-and-rescue teams because there are enough already on the ground.
With the weather dipping and time running out, hopes of finding survivors are fast receding though a teenaged boy, trapped for five days under the debris of a flattened guest house in Kathmandu, was pulled out alive Thursday.
Onlookers applauded and cheered Nepalese and American rescue workers after they rescued Pemba Lama who had survived on drips of water squeezed out of wet clothes. One police officer said Pemba was 15 years old, another said he was 18. He was placed on a stretcher and taken to hospital.
A man was also plucked safely after 82 hours from the debris of another building by a French rescue team which heard him banging an object. Rishi Khanal (28), who had to be taken for surgery, said he was so thirsty that he drank his own urine.
An official said these “miracle stories” are few and it is unlikely that many more trapped in the debris mounds will be extracted alive by rescue workers — the official count Thursday morning was 5,489 dead and over 11,000 injured. “We are into the sixth day of the earthquake and hopes are fading. The rescue teams that are here will go about their job, we don’t need additional teams. Our focus now is to reach those who survived in the areas that have been cut off. They may be without food and water,” the official said.
India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has 16 teams on the ground. So far, they have saved 11 people and pulled out 121 bodies from different places in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur.
Rain and poor visibility are hampering relief flights, especially in the mountain districts. The Indian embassy in Kathmandu said relief efforts are being taken in conjunction with Nepalese authorities.
IAF helicopters have ferried 100 tonnes of relief material to Gorkha, Dhading, Nuwakot, Sindhupalchowk, Rasuwa and Ramechhap.
According to the embassy, India has already flown to Nepal 280 tonnes of relief material including drinking water, milk, biscuits, noodles, medicines, tents, blankets, tarpaulin and plastic sheets.
Three Indian Army medical teams have been deployed in Barpak in the Gorkha district and a 39-member Army team has stayed back at the Everest base camp to assist stranded tourists and climbers.
A Power Grid team is working with the Nepal Electricity Authority to restore power supply in different parts of the country. Three sub-power stations in the Kathmandu Valley are already up and running.
Survivor: ‘I tried to come out… found myself stuck’
Fifteen-year-old Pema Lama held the hand of one of his rescuers and looked towards a large group of photographers and television news crews as he was brought to safety after being pulled out from the collapsed ruins of Kathmandu’s Hilton Hotel on Thursday. As hundreds of onlookers broke into applause seeing the teenager alive, he was brought to a waiting ambulance by his rescuers.
“When the quake came, I got hit on my chin and when I tried to come out I was trapped. I was on the ground (floor). We were eating while the earthquake came,” Lama told reporters at a nearby field hospital.
A doctor who treated Lama said he was “surprisingly well” and was expected to make a good recovery. “Being five days without food without water, it was amazing the way he (has) survived. We gave him some fluid, we gave him some energy, like fluid, like sugar,” said Eran Tal Or, a senior doctor at Israeli Field Hospital.
Lama’s rescue is a rare moment of joy for a country overwhelmed by the disaster. Officials said on Thursday that the chances of finding more survivors were fading, particularly in hard-hit rural areas where aid has yet to reach. Reuters