Death toll from the devastating earthquake in Nepal four days ago rose past 5,000 on Wednesday as survivors stranded in remote villages awaited aid and relief.
Nepalese riot police battled to contain anger among survivors while rescuers raced against time to find anyone alive in the rubble of the country’s capital Kathmandu.
Supplies are running thin and aftershocks have strained nerves in the ruined city. Desperate to leave, thousands of people began gathering from before dawn outside the main bus station after the government promised to provide special services.
But when the buses failed to materialise, anger began surging and scuffles broke out between the crowds and the columns of riot police.
More than 100,000 people have already left Kathmandu, with officials estimating the number could reach 300,000, more than a 10th of the city’s population.
Most were heading for distant regions, where most Kathmandu residents are originally from.
Fights had also broken out because of food shortages, Magnus International Search and Rescue team member Amit Rubin reported, saying "Villagers think the tourists are taking too much food."
Nepal’s government has yet to fully assess the devastation wrought by Saturday's 7.8 magnitude quake, as rescue teams are unable to reach many mountainous areas despite aid supplies and personnel pouring in from around the world.
Although the aftershocks from the quake have begun to subside, hundreds of thousands of people are still sleeping outside in the streets after their homes had either been wrecked or were feared to be on the verge of collapse.
The Nepalese army said that an improvement in the weather should help efforts to reach rural areas.
"We are moving forward with intensive rescue operations today," said Nepalese army spokesman Jagdish Pokharel.
As the country began three days of national mourning, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala warned that the death toll could eventually rise to more than 10,000. That would surpass the 8,500 who died in a 1934 earthquake, the last disaster on this scale to hit the Himalayan nation that sits between India and China.
The UN estimates that eight million people have been affected by the quake, more than a quarter of Nepal’s population, and that 1.4 million are in need of food assistance. Tens of thousands have been left homeless.
Around 50,000 pregnant women and girls could be affected, the UN also said. Pregnant women affected by the disaster require maternal health services, including antenatal care, safe delivery services, post-partum care, and - for those who experience complications - emergency obstetric services, it said.
Meanwhile around 250 people are feared missing after an avalanche hit a popular trekking route on Tuesday. Foreign tourists are feared among those missing, but details remain scant as the area is remote and communications difficult.
Amid the chaos and tragedy, there are palpable signs of progress, at least in Kathmandu. The land route to India is open, and flights are landing round the clock at the nation’s single, and now very congested, international airport. The distribution of blankets, food and other vitals has begun in some places and assessments are underway in far-flung districts.
But many people, thought to number in the tens of thousands, are still camping out in parks and other public spaces that have been turned into makeshift refugee camps.
Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi appealed for specialist doctors from overseas, as well as for search-and-rescue teams despite earlier suggestions from officials that Nepal did not need such assistance.
"Our top priority is for relief and rescue teams. We need neurologists, orthopaedic surgeons and trauma surgeons," Bairagi said.