Aid reaches epi­cen­ter as Nepal toll tops 5,000


Hands pressed to­gether in sup­pli­ca­tion, t he Nepalese women pleaded for food, shel­ter and any­thing else the he­li­copter might have brought on an inand- out run Wed­nes­day to this smashed moun­tain vil­lage near the epi­cen­ter of last week­end’s mam­moth earth­quake that killed more than 5,000 peo­ple.

Un­like in Nepal’s cap­i­tal, where most build­ings were spared com­plete col­lapse, the tiny ham­lets cling­ing to the re­mote moun­tain­sides of Gorkha Dis­trict have been rav­aged. En­tire clus­ters of homes were re­duced to piles of stone and splin­tered wood. Or­ange plas­tic tarps used for shel­ter now dot the cliff sides and ter­raced rice pad­dies carved into the land.

“We are hun­gry,” cried a woman who gave her name only as Deu­maya, ges­tur­ing to­ward her stom­ach and open­ing her mouth to em­pha­size her des­per­a­tion. An­other woman, Ra­mayana, her eyes hol­low and haunted, re­peated the plea: “Hun­gry! We are hun­gry!”

But food is not the only ne­ces­sity in short sup­ply out here be- yond the reaches of paved roads, elec­tric­ity poles and other benefits of the mod­ern world. Th­ese days, even wa­ter is scarce. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is a chal­lenge. And mod­ern med­i­cal care is a luxury many have never re­ceived.

As the he­li­copter l anded Wed­nes­day with 40- kilo­gram ( 90- pound) sacks of rice, wind and rain whipped across the crest of the moun­tain. See­ing the con­di­tions, the U. N. World Food Pro­gram’s Ge­off Pin­nock shouted over the roar of the pro­pel­lers, “the next ship­ment has to be plas­tic sheets. Th­ese peo­ple need shel­ter more than they need food.”

About 200 vil­lagers hud­dled un­der a few um­brel­las and plas­tic tarps as they waited to re­ceive the aid, some with runny noses and chat­ter­ing teeth. With the er­ratic Hi­malayan weather, aid work­ers are wor­ried about keep­ing peo­ple warm, fed and safe.

Nepalese po­lice said Wed­nes­day the death toll from the quake had reached 5,027. An­other 18 were killed on the slopes of Mount Ever­est, while 61 died in neigh­bor­ing In­dia, and China’s of­fi­cial Xin­hua News Agency re-

ported 25 dead in Ti­bet.

Protests Breaks out

De­mand­ing Aid

Planes car­ry­ing food and other sup­plies have been steadily ar­riv­ing at Kathmandu’s small air­port, but the aid dis­tri­bu­tion process re­mains fairly chaotic, with Nepalese of­fi­cials hav­ing dif­fi­culty di­rect­ing the flow of emer­gency sup­plies.

About 200 peo­ple blocked traf­fic in the cap­i­tal Wed­nes­day to protest the slow pace of aid de­liv­ery. The pro­test­ers faced off with po­lice and there were mi­nor scuf­fles but no ar­rests were made.

Po­lice ar­rested dozens of peo­ple on sus­pi­cion of loot­ing aban­doned homes as well as caus­ing panic by spread­ing ru­mors of an­other big quake. Po­lice of­fi­cial Bi­gyan Raj Sharma said 27 peo- ple were de­tained for steal­ing.

But in a sign that life was inch­ing back to nor­mal, banks in Kathmandu opened for a few hours Wed­nes­day and stuffed their ATMs with cash, giv­ing peo­ple ac­cess to money.

Thou­sands of peo­ple lined up at bus sta­tions in the cap­i­tal, hop­ing to reach their home­towns in ru­ral ar­eas. Some have had lit­tle news of fam­ily and loved ones since Satur­day’s quake. Oth­ers are scared of stay­ing close to the epi­cen­ter, north­west of Kathmandu.


(Above) Buses loaded with Nepalese go­ing to their home­towns pre­pare to leave Kathmandu, Nepal, Wed­nes­day, April 29. (Right) Nepalese po­lice stop demon­stra­tors who blocked traf­fic to protest the slow pace of aid de­liv­ery for those af­fected by the earth­quake, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Wed­nes­day.

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