Aid reaches quake-hit Nepal villagers as death toll passes 5,000

Nepal declared three days of national mourning for the 5,057 people known to have perished in Saturday's 7.8-magnitude quake.

A woman with injuries from Saturday's massive earthquake, is carried by Nepalese soldiers as she arrives by helicopter from the heavily-damaged Ranachour village at a landing zone in the town of Gorkha, Nepal on April 28, 2015. Wally Santana/AP Photo
Powered by automated translation

GORKHA, NEPAL // Hungry and desperate villagers rushed towards relief helicopters in remote areas of Nepal on Tuesday, begging to be airlifted to safety, four days after a monster earthquake killed more than 5,000 people.

“The ground keeps shaking, even this morning it did. Every time it feels like we will be swallowed, that we will die now. I want to get out of here!” said Sita Gurung, 24, whose home had been wrecked.

As the Himalayan nation’s prime minister Sushil Koirala said getting help to remote areas was a “major challenge”, aid finally began reaching areas that had to fend for themselves since Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude quake.

Mr Koirala declared three days of national mourning for the 5,057 people known to have perished in Nepal alone. More than 100 people died in neighbouring countries such as India and China.

Around 8,000 people had been injured while the United Nations estimated that eight million people had been affected.

Among the dead were 18 climbers who were at Mount Everest base camp when an avalanche triggered by the quake flattened everything in its path. Countries far and wide have joined the relief effort in what is one of Asia's poorest countries, with neighbouring India playing a leading role.

In Gorkha, one of the worst-hit districts, terrified residents ran with outstretched arms towards an Indian army helicopter to plead for food and water.

Scores of houses across several villages in the district had turned into twisted mounds of wood and corrugated tin roofs.

“We haven’t had any food here since the earthquake. Everything has changed, we don’t have anything left here,” Ms Gurung said, gesturing towards what was left of her home in the village of Lapu.

An army officer lifted her onto a stretcher and carried her away.

Military planes from numerous countries such as the United States, China and Israel have joined the rescue effort.

Mr Koirala told an emergency all-party meeting the government was sending desperately needed tents, water and food supplies to those in need.

But he said authorities were overwhelmed by appeals for help from remote Himalayan villages.

Jagdish Chandra Pokherel, a Nepal Army spokesman, said: “The terrain is such that very remote areas take a very long time to reach and without being there physically we won’t be able to reach them, help them, rescue them. Our troops are trying their best.”

In a sign of how difficult conditions are, Nepalese official Uddav Prasad Bhattarai said 250 people were feared missing after an avalanche on Tuesday on the popular Langtang trekking route.

With fears rising of food and water shortages, Nepalis were rushing to stores and petrol stations to stock up on essential supplies in the capital Kathmandu.

Nepal has declared a state of emergency after the disaster – its deadliest in more than 80 years.

Another 73 people died in India. The toll in China’s far western region of Tibet, which borders Nepal, rose to 25, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Families who work in Kathmandu were packing onto buses, some even sitting on the roof, in an exodus from the city.

Those who remained in the capital were sleeping outdoors in tents in parks and other open spaces.With just plastic sheets to protect them from the elements, many were desperate for aid and information on what to do next.

“We’ve been staying here for three days, living under canvas. We’re counting every bite we eat, every drop we drink,” said 28-year-old housewife Rama Shrestha, who was camping out with her five-year-old son.

“And now on top of everything, it is raining. What can we do? Where can we go? We are too scared to return home. What if another one strikes?”

The United Nations said on Tuesday it was releasing US$15 million (Dh55m) from its emergency fund to help relief efforts while the World Food Programme said it aimed to get food aid to 1.4 million people over the next three months.

*Agence France-Presse