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Nepal: the worst earthquake to hit the country in more than 80 years

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The death toll in the Nepal earthquake rose to more than 3,300 on Monday as fears grew for the fate of people living in remote villages that remain out of the reach of search and rescue teams.

The earthquake – Nepal’s worst in more than 80 years – also injured more than 6,500 people and left thousands sleeping in the open while authorities battled against time to rescue anyone still alive beneath the rubble. The death toll may rise again once rescue and aid teams are able to reach remote mountain villages near the epicentre of the quake, where the damage is thought to be far worse than in the capital.

Reports received so far by the government and aid groups suggest that many communities perched on mountainsides are devastated or struggling to cope. […] The devastation caused by the quake, which struck just before noon on Saturday, is stretching medical services in this impoverished and unprepared Himalayan nation to breaking point. Unicef said that nearly one million children have been “severely affected” by the disaster and warned of an increased risk of waterborne and infectious diseases. […]

Hospital beds in the capital, Kathmandu, are already full, forcing other sick and injured people to seek makeshift treatment in the street alongside thousands of displaced survivors whose homes were destroyed or are in imminent danger of collapse after being weakened by the M7.8 quake. Outside Kathmandu, details of the extent of the damage and the numbers of killed and injured are still sketchy.

Only a few reports have come out of the Gorkha district. The mountainous region, located in the centre of the country, is home to roughly 270,000 people, in the middle of the country. The district of Lamjung is also thought to have been badly affected.

On Mount Everest, hundreds of climbers remained trapped after a huge avalanche flattened the base camp, killing 17 and injuring 61 in the worst disaster to hit the mountain. The death toll on the mountain is likely to rise as no one knows how many people were at base camp and in the vicinity. Many of the dead are locals, making this the second year running that the sherpa and other communities have been hit hard on Everest. Only one of the major expeditions has its camp intact and it seems very unlikely anyone will be continuing any climb on the peak.

Nepalese police officials said a total of 3,218 people had been confirmed dead, while 6,500 had been injured. Another 66 were killed across the border in India and at least another 20 in Tibet, China’s state news agency said. While survivors wait for aid, rescue teams are continuing the frantic search for survivors, despite being exhausted by two nights of ceaseless work. […]

With so many people sleeping in the open with no power or water and downpours forecast, there were mounting fears of major food and water shortages. […] The disaster has prompted a huge international relief operation, although local reports suggest that much of the aid has yet to materialise on the ground due to strong aftershocks that closed Kathmandu’s main airport several times on Sunday.

India flew in medical supplies and members of its disaster response force, while China sent a 60-strong emergency team. Pakistan’s army said it was sending four C-130 aircraft with a 30-bed hospital, search and rescue teams and relief supplies. A US military aircraft with 70 personnel was due to arrive in Kathmandu on Monday. Australia, Britain and New Zealand said they were sending specialist urban search-and-rescue teams to Kathmandu. Britain was also delivering supplies and medics.

The immediate aftermath of earthquake has underlined Nepal’s inability to cope with a disaster of this scale. The country of 28 million has only 2.1 doctors and 50 hospital beds for every 10,000 people, according to the World Health Organization […]

The Guardian - Jason Burke and Justin McCurry - 27 April 2015

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