Food and water shortages sparked anger across Nepal on Monday as thousands remained in the open even two days after the country’s worst earthquake in eight decades left 3,815 dead and many more wounded, forcing Kathmandu to send out SOS for more international help.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi monitoring India’s relief efforts, New Delhi reached out to the Himalayan nation whose Prime Minister Sushil Koirala admitted frankly that operations following the devastating quake of Saturday were not effective.
The home ministry put the toll from the 7.9-magnitude temblor at 3,815, with Kathmandu accounting for nearly 1,000 deaths. A total of 6,515 people were injured, many seriously.
The highest toll of 1,021 among all districts was reported from Sindhupalchok, about 65 km from here. Kathmandu, where damage to property was maximum, suffered 920 fatalities.
Disaffection mounted in Nepal as people alleged poor relief and rescue work. Koirala told a meeting of political parties that poor infrastructure and lack of expertise were to blame.
The “rescue, relief and search operations have not been effective”, he said. “The lack of development in institutions has had a severe impact in calamities management so that we couldn’t make it happen as we thought.”
On Monday, a group of people sheltered in the premises of the Constituent Assembly staged a noisy protest while confronting policemen demanding food and drinking water.
Amid the protest, some women cooked noodles for their children in the open. “Shops are shut. This is the last food item I have. We are suffering due to lack of food and water,” Rama Sharma told IANS.
This IANS journalist received SMSes from people complaining they were not getting adequate assistance from the government.
Nepal Army admitted that people in 19 places in Kathmandu were still waiting for rescue work to begin. “People in these areas are calling us but we have not been able to do that due to several reasons,” said army spokesman General Jagadish Chandra Pokhrel.
Another officer admitted that heavy equipment cannot enter many narrow lanes of Kathmandu where destruction to property has been heavy.
Officials admitted that several districts outside Kathmandu were complaining that they were not getting relief material and adequate rescue work had not started.
The power outages have crippled ATMs. The few functional ATMs saw long queues of people.
Officials say about 4,000 houses in Kathmandu had been destroyed and around 11,000 had developed cracks. About 7,000 houses were also partially damaged. Kathmandu is home to over four million people.
Doctors have warned of epidemics breaking out, triggering mass movement out of Kathmandu.
The Nepal government said it urgently needed tents, dry food, mattresses, medicines and other basic essentials. Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudyal said India, China and other countries had been asked to provide more aid.
The remarks came as tens of thousands in the country spent another chilly night in the open, unable to return to their homes due to aftershocks or because their houses have crashed or become unsafe.
“We are not able to distribute enough drinking water, dry food, mattresses, and medicines to the earthquake victims in such a difficult situation,” the chief secretary said.
He admitted that the government didn’t have the exact data of damaged houses and properties inside and outside Kathmandu. “It is our preliminary estimate that the number of houses damaged is 10 times higher than that of deaths and injured people.”
But soldiers, police personnel and rescuers battled against heavy odds to rescue those still trapped under debris — and dig out the dead. Nepal has declared 29 out of its 70 districts as crisis zones.
Few vehicles plied on the streets of Kathmandu. Domestic flights have been suspended since Sunday. Schools have been shut for five days, and courts for three days.
Hospitals continued to treat the injured in the open due to fear of aftershocks.
India is supplying food, water, milk, clothes, medicines, RO plants, oxygen generators, tents and blankets, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said.(IANS)