Hopes fade of finding more survivors in Nepal

Nepal's authorities rule out the possibility of finding more survivors of recent earthquake, with thousands of people still missing

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Nepal ruled out the possibility Saturday of finding more survivors buried in the rubble from the massive earthquake on April 25 that has so far resulted in the deaths than 6,700 people.

After a week of searches, hopes of detecting more signs of life among the ruins in Kathmandu have all but disappeared and the focus is shifting to reaching survivors in remote areas of Nepal who have yet to receive relief supplies.

"We are trying our best in rescue and relief work but now I don't think that there is any possibility of survivors under the rubble," Home Ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal told AFP.

While multiple teams of rescuers from more than 20 countries have been using sniffer dogs and heat-seeking equipment to find survivors, no one has been pulled out alive since Thursday evening.

Thousands of people were still missing and the fate of thousands of people in remote areas remains unknown.

On Friday, the EU envoy to Nepal, Rensje Teerink, said the authorities did not know the whereabouts of some 1,000 EU citizens.

Diplomats from all over the world descended on Kathmandu to find and rescue their citizens, but face major challenges. Visitors to Nepal and permanent residents from other countries do not have to register with their home countries, so most embassies have had to guess the number of their citizens in peril.

Officials say that the majority were likely to be found safe, but given the difficulty of the terrain and poor communications, their whereabouts were currently unknown.

In the capital Kathmandu, many unclaimed bodies were being quickly cremated because of the need to avert disease and reduce the stench of corpses.

The UN children's fund UNICEF warned of a race against time to avert an outbreak of disease among the 1.7 million youngsters estimated to be living in the worst-hit areas, with monsoon rains just a few weeks away.

UNICEF said the health and wellbeing of children affected by the disaster is "hanging in the balance" as so many have been left homeless, in deep shock and with no access to basic care.

Aid was slowly reaching remote towns and villages but government officials said efforts to step up the pace of delivery were frustrated by a shortage of supply trucks and drivers, many of whom had returned to their villages to help their families.

Army helicopters have air-dropped instant noodles and biscuits to remote communities but people need rice and other ingredients to cook a proper meal.

US military aircraft, heavy equipment and air traffic controllers have started arriving in Nepal to help manage the growing piles of relief supplies clogging Nepal's only international airport.

Brigadier General Paul Kennedy of the U.S. Marine Corps told Reuters that six military aircraft, including two helicopters, will arrive on Saturday, accompanied by 100 marines and lifting equipment under an agreement reached with Nepal's government earlier in the week.

He said US would not be involved in air-traffic operations at Kathmandu airport, which would raise questions of sovereignty.

Teams of soldiers carrying portable radars and including airstrip repair experts, will also be sent to enable two provincial airports to relieve the pressure on the international airport.

The United Nations has said 8 million of Nepal's 28 million people were affected by the quake, with at least 2 million needing tents, water, food and medicines over the next three months.

Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said Nepal would need at least $2 billion to rebuild homes, hospitals, government offices and historic buildings and appealed for international backing.

The government has also announced it will give every family which had a member killed in the earthquake, about $1,000 in compensation.


TRTWorld and agencies