UPDATE 1-In Kathmandu Valley, quake-hit Nepalis fend for themselves – Reuters


DHADING, Nepal, April 26 (Reuters) – Barely any sign of an
organised relief effort was visible outside Nepal’s capital on
Sunday, as aid agencies struggled to fly and truck relief
supplies to a country stricken by its worst earthquake in eight
decades.

In the lush Dhading farming district 80 km (50 miles)
outside Kathmandu, people camped in the open, the hospital was
overflowing, the power was off and shops were closed. Rocks were
strewn across the lightly-travelled single road running west
from the capital.

“Many people have lost their homes. Many people have died,”
said English teacher Chandra Lama, whose home village lies two
hours’ drive further west. The crops in his village ruined, Lama
was hunting for rice and pulses to feed his family.

“We are waiting to see what the government will do.”

More than 1,100 people – or half of the total confirmed dead
in Nepal – were in the Kathmandu Valley, a crossroads of the
ancient civilisations of Asia and economic hub of the Himalayan
nation of 28 million.

Indian military helicopters airlifted some injured to local
hospitals but officials said their operations had been hampered
by rain, cloud cover and repeated aftershocks. With thousands
sleeping in the open with no power or water and downpours
forecast, fears mounted of a humanitarian disaster.

Across the country, hundreds of villages have been left to
fend for themselves.

“We are overwhelmed with rescue and assistance request from
all across the country,” said Deepak Panda, a member of the
country’s disaster management.

Charity CARE International said that the death toll could
run into the thousands, with hundreds of thousands homeless.

“Almost everyone has slept outside and they are creating
temporary shelters with what they have,” said CARE’s emergency
response coordinator in Kathmandu, Santosh Sharma. CARE said
shelter and washing facilities were a priority, as well as food.

“There is no electricity, and soon there will be a scarcity
of water.”

Aid agencies held a first meeting with the Nepali government
on Sunday to coordinate the relief effort.

But the majority of rescue workers face a gruelling journey
by land from Nepal’s state capital Kathmandu along rough, badly
damaged roads, more often frequented by groups of adventurous
tourists heading for Himalayan trekking trails.

URGENT NEED

British charity Save the Children said hospitals in the
Kathmandu Valley were overcrowded, running out of room to store
dead bodies and short on emergency supplies.

“Thousands of people have to stay outside of their homes,
which have been damaged or destroyed by the earthquake. Shelter
assistance is urgently needed,” said Save the Children’s Peter
Olyle, who is based in Kathmandu.

Charity Medecins sans Frontieres was struggling to get
relief supplies including thousands of blankets and shelter in
from India’s northern state of Bihar – also hit by Saturday’s
quake – because landslides had made roads difficult to navigate.

Strong aftershocks further hampered aid and caused panic
after the Saturday’s midday quake, which measured 7.9 on the
Richter scale and flattened buildings, opened cracks in roads
and knocked out phone networks.

At the Dhading district hospital, patients were crammed in
three to a bed and some being treated in the open. Officials
reported 24 dead in the nearby village of Kumpur.

Three people lay on stretchers in a hospital corridor
waiting for treatment. Bins were filled with used bandages and
medical equipment as the hospital ran short of supplies, while
volunteers had to help overstretched medical staff.

“No, I didn’t sleep last night,” said Rashila Amatya,
medical superintendent at the hospital. New patients were being
brought in from outlying areas on Sunday.

“For this new batch of patients there will probably not be
enough medicine to last for today.”

Basudev Ghimire, head of the local rescue unit, said that
more than 130 people had been killed in the district but the
number injured ran into the thousands.

The Indian military, he said, had brought more than 100
people by helicopter to the district hospital or to Kathmandu.
But they had brought no supplies; only evacuated people.

Meanwhile, locals prepared for another cold night outside.

Officials on motorcycles rode through the town, telling
residents through loudhailers that it was not safe to go indoors
because of the risk of aftershocks. People were building tents
with bamboo and sheets, with at least 1,000 ready to spend the
night in several makeshift camps.

(Additional reporting by Rupam Nair in KATHMANDU; Clara
Ferreira Marques and Neha Dasgupta in MUMBAI; Writing by Douglas
Busvine; Editing by Sophie Walker)

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