Saturday, December 4

Nepal Earthquake: Death toll rises to 3,617


 

 

Nepal’s police say at least 3,617 people have been confirmed killed in Saturday’s earthquake, including 1,302 in the Kathmandu Valley alone.

In addition, 6,515 people were injured nationwide, the police department said in a Tweet.
So far 18 people have also been confirmed dead in an avalanche that swept through the Mount Everest base camp in the wake of the earthquake. Another 61 people were killed in neighboring India.

Foreign tourists in Nepal are getting anxious as food, water and power remain scarce. Hotel rooms are in short supply too so Pierre-Anne Dube, a 31-year-old from Quebec, has been sleeping on the sidewalk outside a hotel. Friends had been staying there for the first two days so she could use the bathroom and shower there. But they have checked out.

Like many others she’s scared and wants to get out on the first flight she can get.

“We can’t reach the embassy. We want to leave. We are scared. There is no food. We haven’t eaten a meal since the earthquake and we don’t have any news about what’s going on.”

She had just returned from a trek to Everest base camp, which had been the “best experience of her life,” but living the experience of the massive earthquake was definitely the “worst.”

International aid agency Oxfam says it is is gearing up to deliver clean water and sanitation supplies to thousands of Nepalis now left homeless. They estimate that some 30,000 people are currently living in makeshift shelters in 16 government camps, too scared to return to their homes for fear of aftershocks.

“We are managing to reach out to people in Kathmandu, but it is extremely difficult to provide support on a larger scale to the most affected areas — a lot of the main roads have been damaged,” said Cecilia Keizer, Oxfam country director in Nepal.

“Our staff is still checking on their families and the partners we work with. At the moment, all the death count reports are coming from Kathmandu Valley. Sadly, I fear that this is only the beginning,” she said.

There’s a lot that the world still doesn’t really know about the Nepal quake.

The key thing is this: How significant is the destruction in Gorkha district, 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the capital and the location of the quake’s epicenter? Roads to the area, difficult on good days, are damaged. Learning about the level of destruction and human toll in the vulnerable mountain villages there could change the whole picture.

Here’s an assessment by Matt Darvas, a member of the aid group World Vision:

“Villages like this are routinely affected by landslides,” he says, “and it’s not uncommon for entire villages of 200, 300, up to 1,000 people to be completely buried by rock falls.”

Fears are growing that thousands of people may remain cut off in isolated, devastated mountain villages.

Udav Prashad Timalsina, the top official for the Gorkha district where Saturday’s quake was centered, says he is in desperate need of help.

“Things are really bad in the district, especially in remote mountain villages. There are people who are not getting food and shelter. I have had reports of villages where 70 percent of the houses have been destroyed,” he said when contacted by telephone. “We have been calling for help, but we haven’t received enough from the central government.”

He says 223 people had been confirmed dead in the district but he presumed “the number would go up because there are thousands who are injured.”

Jagdish Pokhrel, the clearly exhausted army spokesman, says nearly the entire 100,000-soldier army is involved in rescue operations.

“90 percent of the army’s out there working on search and rescue,” he said. “We are focusing our efforts on that, on saving lives.”

There are 14 international medical teams on the way to Nepal, the UN says, and up to 15 international search-and-rescue teams on the way, the UN says, which will if necessary use military aircraft or the overland route from India to get into Nepal.

Offers of help have come in from around the world. Some foreign teams have already arrived and are helping with search and rescue efforts – braving aftershocks at Kathmandu airport that forced some aircraft to circle before landing.

The UN children’s agency says nearly one million children in Nepal urgently need humanitarian assistance as they were particularly vulnerable.

The country is running out of water and food, and there are frequent power cuts, the UN says.

Heavy rain earlier on Saturday further worsened conditions with UN officials expressing concern that thunderstorms that could harm people staying outdoors and lead to a shortage of vaccines against disease including diarrhoea and measles.