In the early hours of Wednesday at Tundikhel, in the heart of Kathmandu, women form a circle and shout at the men to stay away. One of them is in the centre, defecating in the open.
A terrible stench rises from the grounds, one of the 16 designated open camps after the weekend quakes sent fearful Kathmandu outdoors.
With day temperatures rising, temporary toilets in a mess and little or no water supply, conditions at the camps are deteriorating rapidly, prompting health warnings on disease outbreaks post-disaster.
Doctors in city hospitals have begun receiving complaints of diarrhoea and skin allergies. In Bhaktapur, east of Kathmandu, suspected cases of gastroenteritis have surfaced and doctors say an outbreak of water-borne diseases in such a situation is not unusual.
Making matters worse are the bodies trapped in the debris of toppled buildings. There is no clarity on how many could be there and this has set off alarm bells.
An official of the Ministry of Health and Population said the trapped bodies and dead cattle pose a serious health hazard and work has been stepped up to retrieve and dispose them.
But search teams say it is not easy getting to the bodies because they are probably deep inside, beneath layers of flattened buildings. India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) alone has pulled out 85 bodies so far.
A doctor at the Bir Hospital, the city’s largest, said inadequate sanitary conditions, contaminated water and lack of specialists in hospitals posed “imminent danger” to a population still counting its dead.
Bracing for an outbreak-like situation, officials at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital have kept a medical team on alert and readied a plan to handle at least 500 cases.
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