Over 1.4m need food and water as toll hits 4,400
Entire villages have been wiped out and more than 1.4 million people are in need of food and water, according to the latest reports from crisis-hit Nepal.
Meanwhile, the agonising wait for news of loved ones goes on for the families of Irish people still missing in the Himalayan country after Saturday’s devastating earthquake.
The death toll in the worst earthquake to hit the country for more than 80 years has risen to more than 4,400 and thousands more are injured and homeless.
According to the most up-to-date figures from the UN, eight million people in 39 districts have been affected.
British and Irish medical staff, experts and volunteers have been dispatched to the worst-affected areas, with the RAF, firefighters from the UK International Search and Rescue Team, Gurkha engineers and medics from the Doctors Of The World charity among those involved.
Saleh Saeed, chief executive of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), said a quake of this kind had been forecast to happen in the area for many years.
He told the BBC entire villages had been wiped out and, close to the earthquake’s epicentre, whole villages had been completely destroyed.
“Now we are seeing tens of thousands of homeless people sleeping in makeshift camps,” he said. “Those who are lucky have got tents, others are now having to sleep in the open air, in the cold, in the wet.”
Mr Saeed said that always after such disasters there was some degree of “chaos and confusion” but he stressed aid was “getting in” by road and plane, adding that over the next few days people would see an intense increased activity to make sure all those who need help are being reached.
He said he expected the death toll to rise, adding: “What we really need to do is focus on those who are still living and need the help – that’s tens of thousands of people who have been made homeless, 7,000 people who have been injured.”
Towns and villages across Nepal have been flattened, and communications pr oblems in the worst-affected areas have left families and friends around the world anxiously awaiting news of loved ones.
Aid workers on the ground have reported “huge logistical difficulties” as road closures and communication problems have thwarted some efforts.
Leigh Daynes, UK director of medical charity Doctors Of The World, said Nepal’s health sys tem was already vulnerable even before the earthquake, especially in rural areas.
“Now hospitals are utterly incapacitated, infrastructure has been decimated and thousands of people are sleeping on the streets. With monsoon season only weeks away, this is a catastrophe of the highest order and demands an urgent medical response,” he said.
Helicopters crisscrossed the skies above the mountains of Gorkha district near the epicentre, ferrying the injured to clinics, and taking emergency supplies back to remote villages.
Around noon, two helicopters brought in eight women from Ranachour village, two of them clutching babies to their breast, and a third heavily pregnant.
“We are facing huge logistical difficulties. As well as roads being closed, aftershocks have prevented planes from landing at Kathmandu airport.”
Meanwhile, all of the climbers stranded at camps high up Mount Everest have been helicoptered to safety.
Taking advantage of yesterday’s clear weather, three helicopters shuttled climbers all day from camp 1, above the impassable Khumbu icefalls, while others trekked back from camp 2 to be airlifted out.
Between 17 and 22 climbers are reported to have died in avalanches.
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