Humanitarian agencies are preparing large-scale aid operations to earthquake-ravaged Nepal, with tonnes of supplies being flown into the country.
More than 4000 people are known to have died in the 7.8 quake on Saturday and more than 6000 were injured. Dozens of people are also reported to have been killed in neighbouring China and India.
International rescue teams with sniffer dogs are racing to find survivors buried in the rubble. Teams equipped with heavy cutting gear and relief supplies are landing round the clock at the country’s only international airport, on the outskirts of Kathmandu.
Tens of thousands of Nepalese are huddling in vast tent cities, and the UN World Food Programme says shelter and medical equipment is the first priority. “This will be a ... massive operation,” spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told AFP.
A New Zealander is feared to have died in the wake of the devastating earthquake in Nepal, though not as a direct result of the disaster.
Prime Minister John Key gave an update during a visit to the Gulf States, where he has been leading a trade delegation. “The position as I understand it, is it’s possible that a New Zealander has lost their life but not because of the earthquakes per se, but, for want of a better term, natural causes,” Mr Key said from Dubai.
The BBC reports that nine out of ten Nepalese troops are said to be involved in search and rescue operations. “The Nepalese government’s Chief Secretary, Lila Mani Poudyal, said his country was short of medical teams and relief materials, including ‘tents, dry goods, blankets, mattresses and 80 different medicines’.”
“We don’t have the helicopters that we need or the expertise to rescue the people trapped,” he is reported as saying. The BBC also has a gallery of before and after photos from around Nepal, illustrating the destruction from the earthquake.
CNN also reports that medical supplies are running low. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta said doctors at one Kathmandu hospital had moved patients from the 120-year-old building and into another structure, where they were operating on patients in rooms normally not used as operating theaters. “Hospitals were running short on supplies despite international efforts to rush in aid. Numerous aid groups and at least 16 nations rushed aid and workers to Nepal, with more on the way.”
The New York Times has a description of the avalanche that hit the Mt. Everest base camp. “Rescue efforts stalled on Monday because of bad weather, after 20 stranded climbers had been evacuated and 11 bodies had been retrieved, Jhankanath Dhakal, the chief district officer of Solukhumbu District, which includes Nepal’s part of Everest, said in a telephone interview. That was after 60 people were evacuated from Everest on Sunday, he said.”
“Mountains and glaciers shook all around us,” Sean Wisedale, a South African climber and expedition leader, recounted on his blog. “A massive ice slab sheared and thundered into Base Camp. It lifted rocks and boulders ahead of it, slamming into hundreds of tents in the center of the camp and spilling over onto the Khumbu glacier on the other side.”
UN experts have also been poring over satellite images of the shattered country to see which parts have been worst hit. Aid workers say almost no help has reached villages near the epicentre of the earthquake, where entire communities are said to have been destroyed.