Nepal quake survivors sleep in the open amid strong aftershocks

April 27, 2015 08:29
Nepalese mourn the deaths of relatives in Kathmandu on Sunday. Photo: AFP

Hundreds of thousands of Nepalese spent another night outdoors on Sunday following a powerful earthquake that hit the landlocked South Asian nation early on Saturday.

The death toll from the 7.8-magnitude quake has so far reached 2,500 people, BBC News reported.

Many residents of the capital, Kathmandu, lost their homes as a result of the tremor, while others were afraid to return, after strong aftershocks hit the region on Sunday.

The tremor struck an area of central Nepal between Kathmandu and the city of Pokhara early on Saturday.

The worst to hit the country in more than 80 years, the quake unleashed avalanches on Mount Everest, which killed at least 17 people and injured 61 others, the broadcaster said.

Rescuers continued to remove victims from under the rubble of collapsed buildings in Kathmandu.

The situation remains unclear in remote mountainous areas which had been cut off or were hard to reach.

A 6.7-magnitude aftershock was felt on Sunday in Nepal, India and Bangladesh, and more avalanches were reported near Everest.

In Kathmandu, the tremor brought down some houses that had been damaged in the initial quake, and sent people running in panic for open ground.

Hospital staff, already overwhelmed by the huge influx of victims, had to move patients outside.

As night fell, thousands of people were seen occupying all available open spaces, including school playgrounds, courtyards and even traffic islands.

With so many people sleeping in the open with no power or water and downpours forecast, fears mounted of major food and water shortages, according to Reuters news agency. Across the country, hundreds of villages have been left to fend for themselves.

"We have launched a massive rescue and rehabilitation action plan and lots needs to be done," Nepal's Information and Broadcasting Minister Minendra Rijal was quoted as saying.

"Our country is in a moment of crisis and we will require tremendous support and aid."

India flew in medical supplies and members of its National Disaster Response Force. 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 Pentagon spokesman said a US military aircraft with 70 personnel left the United States on Sunday and was due in Kathmandu on Monday. Australia said it was sending a specialist urban search and rescue team to Kathmandu at Nepal's request.

Britain said it was delivering supplies, medics and search and rescue teams.

Norway sent US$3.9 million in humanitarian assistance, and pledges were also made by Germany, Spain, France, Israel and the European Union.

But there has been little sign of international assistance on the ground so far, with some aid flights prevented from landing by aftershocks that closed Kathmandu's main airport several times on Sunday, Reuters said.

Foreign climbers and their Nepalese guides around Everest were caught by the tremors and a huge avalanche that buried part of the base camp in snow, the BBC said.

Pemba Sherpa, who was among the first group of survivors who were flown to Kathmandu on Sunday, said he was resting in his tent when the quake hit.

"I heard a big noise and the next thing I know I was swept away by the snow. I must have been swept almost 200 meters. I lost consciousness," he told Associated Press.

He said many people were still missing on the mountain as several tents were buried by the snow or blown away.

Rescue workers told the BBC that climbers stranded on Everest had been unable to get down because climbing ropes and ladders had been swept away by a series of avalanches.

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Nepalese burn the bodies of relatives in a mass cremation in Kathmandu on Sunday. Photo: AFP
Rescue workers help a trapped earthquake survivor as his friend lies dead next to him in Kathmandu on Sunday. Photo: AFP
Family members eat their dinner in an open field in Kathmandu as fears spread following strong aftershocks on Sunday. Photo: Reuters
Buildings lie in ruins in Khokana in the Kathmandu Valley in this picture provided by aid agency CARE Australia a day after a powerful earthquake hit Nepal on Saturday. Photo: AFP