Koirala Says Death Toll in Nepal Quake Could be 10,000, Rescue Teams Still to Reach
NEW DELHI: Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has now confirmed that the death toll in Nepal’s earthquake could cross the 10,000 mark. “The death toll could go up to 10,000 because information from remote villages hit by the earthquake is yet to come in,” Koirala said.
The devastation is huge, and the rescue operations still to reach Nepal’s remote villages. Despite international help, the Nepal government is finding it extremely difficult to coordinate rescue and relief missions with the survivors despair, turning into visible anger. Food and water remain in short supply with the government rescue teams still to reach villages that have disappeared in the quake.
The official figure of dead has crossed 5000, with the toll from these ‘flattened’ villages expected to be staggering. Over a 10,000 persons are said to be injured, but this figure according to journalists in Nepal seems also to be on the conservative side.
Eight million people have been affected by the massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Nepal, according to the the United Nations.
"According to initial estimations and based on the latest earthquake intensity mapping, eight million people in 39 districts have been affected, of which over two million people live in the 11 severely affected districts," said the most recent report from the UN Office of the Resident Co-ordinator.
According to early indications, 1.4 million people are in need of food assistance. Of these, 750,000 people live near the epicenter in poor quality housing. Impact on agriculture based livelihoods and food security is expected to be extremely high, the UN report said.
Landslides and avalanches have hampered accessibility, with reports indicating that many communities perched on mountainsides are devastated and struggling to cope.
"There have been nearly 100 earthquakes and aftershocks, which is making rescue work difficult. Even the rescuers are scared and running because of them," said Kathmandu district chief administrator Ek Narayan Aryal to AP.
The United Nations said hospitals in the Kathmandu Valley were overcrowded and running out of emergency supplies and space. There have been reports of dwindling supplies of water and food, power outages, and downed communication networks. Hundreds of thousands of people spent the night sleeping in open areas, out of fear of more tremors. Heavy rain is now also reported which can further worsen the conditions.
Aid workers fear that the situation is perhaps worst still at the epicentre, believed to be near Lamjung, a district about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Kathmandu. Poor roads make access to Lamjung difficult, taking at least 6 hours to reach in normal circumstances. After the earthquake, access has been further compromised with landslides blocking off large parts of the road.
The UN has said that at least 940,000 children living in areas severely affected by the earthquake in Nepal are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The crisis leaves children particularly vulnerable - limited access to safe water and sanitation will put children at great risk from waterborne diseases, while some children may have become separated from their families, a statement by UNICEF reads.
The first to respond were Nepal’s neighbours, India, China and Pakistan. India moved large amounts of relief material, specialist teams of its National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and sent in its air force as part of a rescue mission titled “Operation Maitri' or friendship. Pakistani sent air force aircrafts carrying relief and rescue material, including a mobile hospital. China sent rescue teams and other material.
Meanwhile, the United States committed an initial $1m and has made plans to send a disaster response team, says USAID. The UK committed £5m in aid and an eight-strong humanitarian team. Norway pledged $3.9m (£2.5m) in humanitarian assistance with additional pledges coming in from Germany, Spain, France, Israel, the EU, New Zealand, Canada and others.
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