Nepal earth­quake death toll tops 2,400

Power af­ter­shocks con­tinue to wreak havoc and hin­der res­cues

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY PAA­VAN MATHEMA AND AMMU KAN­NAMPILLY

Pow­er­ful af­ter­shocks rocked Nepal on Sun­day, pan­ick­ing sur­vivors of a quake that killed more than 2,400 and trig­ger­ing fresh avalanches at Ever­est base camp, as res­cuers dug through rub­ble in the dev­as­tated cap­i­tal Kathmandu.

Ter­ri­fied res­i­dents, many forced to camp out in the cap­i­tal af­ter Satur­day’s quake re­duced build­ings to rub­ble, were jolted by a 6.7-mag­ni­tude af­ter­shock that com­pounded the worst dis­as­ter to hit the im­pov­er­ished Hi­malayan na­tion in more than 80 years.

At over­stretched hos­pi­tals, where medics were also treat­ing pa­tients in hastily erected tents, staff were forced to flee build­ings for fear of fur­ther col­lapses.

“Elec­tric­ity has been cut off, com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems are con­gested and hos­pi­tals are crowded and are run­ning out of room for stor­ing dead bod­ies,” Ox­fam Australia chief ex­ec­u­tive He­len Szoke told AFP.

Climbers re­ported that the af­ter­shock caused more avalanches at Mount Ever­est, just af­ter he­li­copters air­lifted to safety those in­jured when a wall of snow hit base camp on Satur­day, killing at least 18 peo­ple.

The dead­li­est dis­as­ter in Ever­est’s his­tory comes al­most ex­actly a year af­ter an avalanche killed 16 sherpa guides, forc­ing the sea­son to be can­celled, and as around 800 moun­taineers were gath­ered at the start of the new sea­son.

AFP’s Nepal bureau chief Ammu Kan­nampilly, who was on as­sign­ment at base camp, re­ported that six he­li­copters had man­aged to reach the moun­tain on Sun­day af­ter the weather im­proved.

A stunning im­age cap­tured by the agency’s South Asia photo chief Roberto Sch­midt showed a mas­sive cloud of snow and de­bris cas­cad­ing onto base camp, bury­ing scores of climbers and flat­ten­ing tents.

“Peo­ple be­ing stretchered out as chop­pers land — half a dozen this morn­ing,” Kan­nampilly said in a text mes­sage. “Weather clear, some snow­fall.”

Aid Pours In

Of­fers of help poured in from around the world, with dozens of na­tions or aid groups vol­un­teer­ing ev­ery­thing from snif­fer dogs to an in­flat­able hos­pi­tal.

The Kathmandu-based Na­tional Emer­gency Op­er­a­tion Cen­tre put the toll in Nepal at 2,352 and said a fur­ther 6,239 had been in­jured.

Of­fi­cials in In­dia said the toll there now stood at 67, while main­land Chi­nese me­dia said 18 peo­ple had been killed in the Ti­bet re­gion.

“We have de­ployed all our re­sources for search and res­cues,” po­lice spokesman Ka­mal Singh Bam told AFP. “He­li­copters have been sent to re­mote ar­eas. We are sift­ing through the rub­ble where build­ings have col­lapsed to see if we can find any­one.”

The fresh af­ter­shocks forced Kathmandu’s air­port to close for around an hour as air traf­fic con­trollers evac­u­ated their cen­ter. Sev­eral flights had to be di­verted in mid-air.

The coun­try’s cell­phone net­work was work­ing only spo­rad­i­cally, while large parts of the cap­i­tal were with­out elec­tric­ity.

Dev­as­ta­tion in Kathmandu

AFP cor­re­spon­dents in Kathmandu re­ported that tremors were felt through­out the day, in­clud­ing one strong af­ter­shock at dawn be­fore the 6.7-mag­ni­tude fol­low-up quake that struck in the af­ter­noon.

The his­toric nine-story Dhara­hara tower, a ma­jor tourist at­trac­tion, was among the build­ings brought down in Kathmandu Satur­day.

Po­lice said around 150 peo­ple were thought to have been in the tower at the time of the dis­as­ter, based on ticket sales.

“At least 30 dead bod­ies have been pulled out. We don’t have a num­ber on the res­cued but over 20 in­jured were helped out,” Bishwa Raj Pokharel, a lo­cal po­lice of­fi­cial, told AFP.

“We haven’t fin­ished our work there, res­cue work is still con­tin­u­ing. Right now, we are not in a po­si­tion to es­ti­mate how many might be trapped.”

As res­cuers sifted through the huge mounds of rub­ble in the cap­i­tal, some us­ing bare hands, hos­pi­tals were over­whelmed with vic­tims who suf­fered mul­ti­ple frac­tures and trauma. Morgues were over­flow­ing with bod­ies.

“We have treated many peo­ple since yes­ter­day, the ma­jor­ity chil­dren,” said Samir Acharya, a doc­tor at Nepal’s An­na­purna Neu­ro­log­i­cal Hos­pi­tal.

“Most pa­tients have head

in- ju­ries or frac­tures. Two of our pa­tients died, two are crit­i­cal.”

At the city’s old­est Bir Hos­pi­tal, an AFP cor­re­spon­dent saw griev­ing rel­a­tives try­ing to swat away flies from around a dozen bod­ies placed on the floor of the morgue af­ter stor­age space ran out.

Acharya said medics were work­ing out of a tent set up in a park­ing lot to cope with the num­ber of in­jured, while some pa­tients were too scared to stay in the build­ing.

‘Just flat­tened me’

Ex­pe­ri­enced moun­taineers said panic erupted on Satur­day at base camp, which has been se­verely dam­aged, while one de­scribed the avalanche as “huge.”

“We have air­lifted 52 from the base camp so far, 35 have been brought to Kathmandu,” said Tulsi Gau­tam of Nepal’s tourism depart­ment which is­sues per­mits to climb the world’s high­est moun­tain.

“Those who are able are walk­ing down. Oth­ers are be­ing air­lifted.”

Ge­orge Foul­sham, a Sin­ga­pore- based marine bi­ol­o­gist, de­scribed the mo­ment dis­as­ter struck.

“I was out­side, saw a white 50-story build­ing of white come at me. I ran and it just flat­tened me,” he told AFP.

“I tried to get up and it flat­tened me again. I couldn’t breathe, I thought I was dead. When I fi­nally stood up, I couldn’t be­lieve it passed me over and I was al­most un­touched.

“I saved for years to climb Ever­est. It feels like the moun­tain is say­ing it’s not meant to be climbed for now.”

Nepal and the rest of the Hi­malayas are par­tic­u­larly prone to earth­quakes be­cause of the col­li­sion of the In­dian and Eura­sia plates.

An 6.8 mag­ni­tude quake hit eastern Nepal in Au­gust 1988 killing 721 peo­ple, and a mag­ni­tude 8.1 quake killed 10,700 peo­ple in Nepal and In­dia in 1934.

AP/AFP

1. Nepal’s se­cu­rity per­son­nel re­move de­bris from a bud­get ho­tel that col­lapsed in Satur­day’s earth­quake, in Kalanki neigh­bor­hood of Kathmandu, Nepal on Sun­day, April 26. 2. In this pho­to­graph taken on Satur­day, April 25 a cloud of snow and de­bris trig­gered by an earth­quake flies to­ward Ever­est Base Camp, mo­ments ahead of flat­ten­ing part of the camp in the Hi­malayas. 3. Nepalese res­cue per­son­nel help a trapped earth­quake sur­vivor as his friend lies dead next to him in Swyambhu, Kathmandu on Sun­day.

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