Dead cross 2,500 as living begin to pick up the pieces

Hospitals overflow with dead and injured, run out of supplies; thousands spend rainy Kathmandu night in the open.

Written by Yubaraj Ghimire | Kathmandu | Updated: April 27, 2015 7:42 am
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A day after the massive earthquake in Nepal, as the toll crossed 2,400, and grieving families cremated the dead while rescuers raced against time to dig through rubble for the missing, fresh aftershocks triggered panic and hit relief operations on Sunday.

Fresh tremors were also felt in northern and eastern parts of India — Delhi, West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand, Orissa, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — at 12:35 pm, triggered by a 6.7-magnitude aftershock epicentred in Nepal. As the death toll in India rose to 62, the government announced Rs 6 lakh compensation for the victims’ families.

The aftershock between Kathmandu and Mt Everest triggered more avalanches in the Himalayas. In Everest’s worst disaster, the bodies of 17 climbers were recovered from the mountain on Sunday.

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With Nepal’s government overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, India flew in medical supplies and relief crews, while China sent in a 62-strong emergency team. Relief agencies said hospitals in the Kathmandu Valley were overflowing and running out of medical supplies.

Bodies were still arriving on Sunday at one hospital in Kathmandu, where police officer Sudan Shreshtha said his team had brought 166 corpses overnight. “I am tired and exhausted, but I have to work and have the strength,” Shreshtha told Reuters as an ambulance brought three more victims to the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital.

Bodies were heaped in a dark room, some covered with cloth, some not. The stench of death was overpowering.

“Both private and government hospitals have run out of space and are treating patients outside, in the open,” said Nepal’s envoy to India, Deep Kumar Upadhyay.

Thousands of people spent the night outside in chilly temperatures and patchy rain, too afraid to return to their damaged homes. “The aftershocks keep coming… so people don’t know what to expect,’’ said Sanjay Karki, Nepal head for global aid agency Mercy Corps. “All the open spaces in Kathmandu are packed with people who are camping outdoors. When the aftershocks come you cannot imagine the fear. You can hear women and children crying.’’

On Sunday, survivors wandered the streets clutching bed rolls and blankets, while others sat in the street cradling their children, surrounded by a few plastic bags of belongings. Rescuers scrambled over mounds of splintered timber and broken bricks in the hope of finding survivors. Some used their bare hands to fill small white buckets with dirt and rock.

Aid workers warned that the situation could be far worse near the epicentre. The US Geological Survey said the quake was centered near Lamjung, about 80 kilometers northwest of Kathmandu. Roads to that area were blocked by landslides, hindering rescue teams, said chief district official Prakash Subedi. Teams were trekking through mountain trails to reach remote villages, and helicopters would also be deployed, he said.

Meanwhile, the IAF’s C-130J Super Hercules brought in relief material and medicines, while six ALH Dhruv began transporting those injured and stranded from remote areas, including the Everest base camp. Thirty people were rescued and flown into the capital for treatment.

While 11 bodies were brought in from Lukla area, the airport closest to the Everest base camp, unconfirmed reports said around 100 people were stranded at the base camp. Google executive Dan Fredinburg is believed to be among those killed in the base camp area.

Help also poured in from other neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who cut short his trip to Indonesia, called an all-party meeting to take stock of rescue and relief operations.

— With agencies

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