Nepal Struggles to Cope After Quake

By Altaf Ahmad
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150427-NP-Quake-620 A Nepalese woman walks through Balaju, an earthquake-stricken neighborhood in Kathmandu, April 27, 2015.

Updated at 5:54 p.m. ET on 2015-04-27

The death toll from the massive earthquake in Nepal this weekend surpassed 4,000 on Monday, the Nepalese government said, as other countries, including India and Bangladesh – which also suffered casualties and related damage – rushed in humanitarian aid amid bad weather.

“I was outside the home when the deadly tremor struck. I wish I had died along with my two daughters and wife, who were buried alive under the house,” Manish Updhoyay, a resident of Kathmandu, told BenarNews.

The 7.8-magnitude quake, centered near Lamjung, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Kathmandu, struck close to noon on Saturday (local time).

It was felt as far away as Bangladesh.

At least 62 people were reported killed in India – mostly in the northern state of Bihar that borders Nepal.

In Bangladesh, at least 10 people were killed and nearly 100 injured on Saturday and Sunday as the quake and its aftershocks were felt in Dhaka and elsewhere in the country.

“For the two consecutive days, I ran out of our house along with my family members, fearing for our lives as our building began shaking,” Azizur Rahman, a resident of Uttara, a Dhaka suburb, told Benar News.

The quake, Nepal’s worst in 81 years, destroyed hundreds of buildings and reduced some of Nepal’s most famous and historical landmarks to rubble.

These included Darbar Square, a UNESCO world heritage site, and the iconic Dharhara tower in the heart of Kathmandu.

“In my village, most of the houses were razed to the ground and as many as 20 people, including a few of my relatives, were killed,” Durga Bahadur, a Nepalese living in New Delhi, told BenarNews.

On Monday, more aftershocks were reported in Nepal as well as in northern and eastern India.

This caused local health authorities to empty hospitals and move patients into the streets, so as to safeguard against the threat of more buildings collapsing.

The smaller temblors put people on edge in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, and even in New Delhi.

The official death toll in Nepal did not include 18 people who were killed Saturday at Mount Everest base camp in an avalanche triggered by the earthquake, the Associated Press reported.

Growing desperation

There were fears that the toll could grow when rescue teams finally reached cut-off villages and other places near the epicenter, where thousands of people may be trapped beneath collapsed homes andother buildings.
Fresh tremors and incessant rains hampered rescue operations Monday, leading Nepal’s government to declare the earthquake a national calamity, according to reports.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala called on the international community to send Nepal desperately needed blood supplies.

"We will require tremendous support as our country is in a moment of crisis," Information and Broadcasting Minister Minendra Rijal said.

On Sunday, heavy rains forced the closure of Kathmandu airport, where stranded foreigners were trying to fly out.

“It is raining heavily here and almost all Nepalese are staying under the open sky, as cracks in buildings are widening with powerful aftershocks at regular intervals,” Bipin Acharya, another survivor of the quake and a resident of Kaushaltar, in Bhaktapur district, told BenarNews by phone.

Stranded, missing Southeast Asians

As of Monday, according to Reuters, 1,417 Indians and 50 Bangladeshis had been evacuated from Nepal.

Among those still in Nepal, 66 Thais were reported to be safe, but two Malaysians were missing.

A team of Malaysian climbers at the Everest base camp were accounted for and safe, Reuters reported.

According to Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 17 out of 34 Indonesian nationals in Nepal were missing.

International help

India, Nepal’s largest neighbor in South Asia, was among the first countries to heed its call for help.

On Sunday, the Indian government dispatched 13 military cargo places, which transported essentials including food, tents and blankets.

"We will strive to rescue as many people alive as possible. Many people buried under the wreckage must be alive,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.

On Monday, India flew in medical supplies and members of its National Disaster Response Force (NDRF).

With regard to the quake’s victims on the Indian side of the border, Modi’s government pledged that it would compensate each family of the 62 citizens who died in the temblor 600,000 rupees (U.S. $9,475).

Three other South Asian countries – Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan – also sent medical teams and relief supplies.

Meanwhile, at their meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, foreign ministers of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said their governments were ready to contribute to the Nepalese post-quake relief efforts, the Star Online reported.

"We will donate U.S. $1 million and send a rescue team there as soon as possible. We have experience in post-disaster work, such as after tsunamis and earthquakes," Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla said Monday.

Jesmin Papri in Dhaka contributed to this report.


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