Shocked families sleep in fear on streets as quake death toll passes 2,500
The death toll from Nepal’s earthquake has soared past 3,700 and is expected to rise further as rescue workers struggle to reach remote villages two days after the disaster.
Reports received so far by the government and aid groups suggest that many communities perched on mountainsides are devastated or struggling to cope.
Udav Prashad Timalsina, the top official for the Gorkha district, near the epicentre of Saturday’s quake, said he was in desperate need of help.
“There are people who are not getting food and shelter. I’ve had reports of villages where 70pc of the houses have been destroyed,” he said.
He said 223 people had been confirmed dead in the district but he presumed “the number would go up because there are thousands who are injured”.
Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake spread horror from the capital, Kathmandu, to small villages and to the slopes of Mount Everest, triggering an avalanche which buried part of the base camp packed with foreign climbers preparing to make their summit attempts.
Mr Timalsina said his district had not received enough help from the central government, but Jagdish Pokhrel, the clearly exhausted army spokesman, said nearly the entire 100,000-soldier army was involved in rescue operations.
“We have 90pc of the army out there working on search and rescue,” he said. “We are focusing our efforts on that, on saving lives.”
Nepal police said in a statement today that the country’s death toll had risen to 3,617 people.
That does not include the 18 people killed in the avalanche, which were counted by the mountaineering association. Another 61 people were killed in neighbouring India, and China reported 20 people dead in Tibet.
Well over 1,000 of the victims were in Kathmandu, where an eerie calm prevailed today.
Tens of thousands of families slept outdoors for a second night, fearful of aftershocks that have not ceased. Camped in parks, open squares and a golf course, they cuddled children or pets against chilly Himalayan night-time temperatures.
They woke to the sound of dogs yelping and jackhammers. As the dawn light crawled across toppled building sites, volunteers and rescue workers carefully shifted broken concrete slabs and crumbled bricks mixed together with humble household items: pots and pans, a purple notebook decorated with butterflies, a framed poster of a bodybuilder, so many shoes.
“It’s overwhelming. It’s too much to think about,” said 55-year-old Bijay Nakarmi, mourning his parents, whose bodies recovered from the rubble of what once was a three-storey building.
He could tell how they died from their injuries. His mother was electrocuted by a live wire on the roof top and his father was struck by falling beams on the staircase.
He had last seen them a few days earlier – on Nepal’s Mother’s Day – for a cheerful family meal.
“I have their bodies by the river. They are resting until relatives can come to the funeral,” Mr Nakarmi said as workers continued searching for another five people buried underneath the wreckage.
Kathmandu district chief administrator Ek Narayan Aryal said tents and water were being handed out at 10 locations in Kathmandu, but that aftershocks were leaving everyone jittery. The largest, yesterday, was magnitude 6.7.
“There have been nearly 100 earthquakes and aftershocks, which is making rescue work difficult. Even the rescuers are scared and running because of them,” he said.
“We don’t feel safe at all. There have been so many aftershocks. It doesn’t stop,” said Rajendra Dhungana (34).
Acrid, white smoke rose above the Hindu temple, Nepal’s most revered. “I’ve watched hundreds of bodies burn,” said Mr Dhungana.
The capital city is largely a collection of small, poorly constructed brick apartment buildings. The earthquake destroyed swathes of the oldest neighbourhoods, but many were surprised by how few modern structures collapsed in the quake.
This morning, some pharmacies and shops for basic provisions opened while bakeries began offering fresh bread. With power lines down, patchy phone connections and almost no Internet connectivity, residents were particularly anxious to buy morning newspapers.
Huge queues of people desperate to secure fuel lined up outside petrol pumps – prices were the same as they were before the earthquake struck.
“We are not raising prices,” fruit seller Shyam Jaiswal said. “That would be illegal, immoral profit.”
As aid began pouring in from more than a dozen countries, aid workers warned that the situation could be far worse near the epicenrte – about 80km north-west of Kathmandu