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Nepal earthquake: Death toll passes 4,400 amid fears over remote areas

April 28 2015, 10:05

Image 0The devastating earthquake in Nepal has affected 8 million people across the Himalayan nation, the United Nations estimates. More than 1.4 million people are in need of food assistance, the world body says in a situation report.

Rescue and aid workers in Nepal are struggling to cope with the scale of the devastation dealt by Saturday's powerful earthquake -- digging through rubble by hand, performing surgeries in makeshift operating theaters, scouring notoriously difficult terrain for more victims.

But power blackouts in the capital city of Kathmandu, supply shortages and difficulties getting around complicated the efforts.

By early Tuesday, at least 4,400 people were confirmed dead as a result of the earthquake, the overwhelming majority of them in Nepal. More than 8,000 people were reported to have suffered injuries.

The destruction in Kathmandu, the capital, is stark: revered temples reduced to rubble, people buried in the wreckage of their homes, hospitals short on medical supplies and overflowing with patients. Serious damage is also reported in villages in the surrounding valley.

"Information about remote areas is severely lacking at this time," said Devendra Singh Tak, an official with Save the Children, noting that roads were blocked and communications unreliable.

Reports of 'total or near total destruction'

"Some of the initial surveys that we're hearing of from the zones closer to the epicenter talk about total or near total destruction," said Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency, said Sunday that nearly 1 million Nepalese children urgently need assistance.

China, India, France, Italy, Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia, Taiwan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Switzerland, Norway, Singapore and South Korea were among the nations sending aid and search and rescue crews. The European Union and the World Health Organization were also sending aid.

The United States announced Monday it would send $9 million, on top of the $1 million it had previously announced. That's in addition to 45 tons of aid, a USAID disaster team and a search and rescue team already dispatched to Nepal. A U.S. Special Forces team in Nepal for high-altitude training was also helping out, according to the Pentagon.

The death toll in Nepal stood at 4,310 Tuesday morning, according to the country's Home Ministry. Another 72 people died in India, while China reported 25 deaths. Nearly 8,000 people were injured in Nepal and more than 100 in China, authorities said.

The epicentre of devastation

Image 0

The earthquake and its aftershocks have turned one of the world's most scenic regions into a panorama of devastation.

At night, many Nepalis slept outside, shivering in the frigid air of the Himalayan Mountains but at least safe from falling debris.

"Even people staying in hotels, they carried their blankets and pillows and were sleeping either on the ground floor or out in the open," Tak of Save the Children said.

Residents of Kathmandu are banding together to get by, with stores shuttered and very few sources of food and drinkable water. People have independently set up communal kitchens for cooking.

Destruction of temples strikes spiritual blow

Many of the city's centuries-old buildings, which had survived countless earthquakes over the generations and provided a sense of national pride, have been toppled.

The destruction of many important temples in the heart of Kathmandu has deepened the despair many Nepalis are experiencing. Religion is an important part of life in the mainly Hindu nation.

The iconic buildings, which are often the first stop of any tourist's tour of the city, crumbled before the eyes of onlookers as the quake struck Saturday.

Police officers and volunteers continued to pick through the temples' rubble on Monday, using their bare hands, shovels and pieces of metal. They shunned the use of heavier gear to dig through the wreckage for fear of harming any survivors, bodies or priceless artifacts buried within.

Tourism has been one of the few economic bright spots in Nepal, one of the poorest nations in the world. But now that industry is threatened after the earthquake, which set off deadly avalanches on Mount Everest, the country's most famous attraction.

Tourism directly accounts for about 4% of Nepal's gross domestic product and indirectly contributes to 8%, according to IHS Asia Pacific chief economist Rajiv Biswas.

All told, the earthquake could cost Nepal $5 billion, Biswas estimated Monday -- a huge hit against its gross domestic product of $19.3 billion in 2014.

Source: cnn

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