The Latest on Nepal Quake: At Busy Airport, Planes Turn Away
KATHMANDU, (AP): Chaos has reigned at Kathmandu’s small airport since the earthquake, with the onslaught of relief flights causing major backups on the tarmac.
Sitanshu Kar, India’s defense ministry spokesman, tweeted that four Indian air force aircraft carrying communication gear, aid supplies and rescue personnel were forced to return to New Delhi on Monday because of airport congestion.
India was planning to resend the two C-17 Globemasters, one C-130 Hercules and one Ilyushin IL-76 back to Nepal later Monday night, when the situation was expected to have eased.
Nepal’s government says the needs of its people are acute, with 3,700 dead and the toll expected to rise. Also, more than 6,300 people are injured, and tens of thousands lost homes.
— Ashok Sharma, New Delhi.
5:45 p.m. (1200 GMT)
All mountaineering on the Chinese side of Mount Everest was cancelled after Saturday’s earthquake.
China’s official Xinhua News Agency says more than 400 climbers from 20-plus countries were on the northern side of the world’s highest mountain and were reported safe after they descended to lower elevations.
Xinhua quoted an official with the Tibetan bureau of sports as saying that an avalanche at 7,000 meters (23,000 feet) and the possibility of further aftershocks was considered to have made climbing too dangerous. There was no word on when the ban would be lifted.
The Chinese side of Everest is less popular with climbers, in part because a special permit is required to enter Tibet. But it is an alternative to the heavily trafficked Nepalese side, and it is growing popular especially with Chinese climbers.
— Christopher Bodeen, Beijing
4:45 p.m. (1100 GMT)
Doctors Without Borders is sending eight teams to provide medical aid and other relief in Nepal after Saturday’s earthquake.
The group says four of the teams were trying to crossing the border from India’s Bihar state, a team from New Delhi is heading to Kathmandu and a team from Japan is heading to the Kathmandu Valley.
A team of eight staff with surgical skills left Brussels and will set up a surgery unit as well as run mobile clinics. And a team from Amsterdam is departing Monday with medical, water and sanitation relief.
The government says more than 6,300 people were injured in the quake and Nepal is short of medical staff, medicine and rescue helicopters to transport the injured.
3.45 p.m. (1000 GMT)
Lila Mani Poudyal, the government’s chief secretary and the rescue coordinator, appealed for more help from the international community, saying Nepal was short of everything from paramedics to electricity.
“We are appealing for tents, dry goods, blankets, mattresses, and 80 different medicines … that we desperately need now,” he told reporters. “We don’t have the helicopters that we need or the expertise to rescue the people trapped.”
Once people are pulled from the wreckage, he noted, even more help is needed, especially orthopedic doctors, nerve specialists, anesthetists, surgeons and paramedics. “We are appealing to foreign government to send these specialized and smart teams.”
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The recovery situation was also being slowed because many workers — water tanker drivers, electricity company employees, laborers to clear debris — have “all gone to their families and (are) staying with them, refusing to work.”
— Binaj Gurubacharya, Kathmandu, Nepal
3.30 p.m. (0945 GMT)
The French foreign minister says two French citizens have been confirmed dead.
Laurent Fabius said in a statement broadcast on French TV BFM that the two victims were killed in a landslide triggered by the quake.
Fabius said authorities have located 1,400 French people in Nepal and are still trying to contact 676 others. Ten French citizens are known to have been injured.
3.15 p.m. (0930 GMT)
World Vision says its aid workers reached Gorkha district, the epicenter, but gathering information from the villages remains a challenge.
The group says some remote areas can be three days’ walk from the main disaster center in Gorkha even when the roads are clear.
“These remote areas don’t have any search or rescue operations assistance as of this time. In some of the remote areas staff heading out for assessments are finding both the road and the trails blocked by landslides, making access extremely difficult,” World Vision said by email.
“In those villages that have been reached, the immediate needs are great including the need for search and rescue, food items, blankets and tarps, and medical treatment.”
2.30 p.m. (0845 GMT)
A respected consultancy says the long-term cost of reconstruction after Saturday’s earthquake could be more than $5 billion, or about 20 percent of Nepal’s GDP.
Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific Chief Economist for the Colorado-based consultancy services IHS, says Nepal has extremely limited capacity to finance relief efforts and reconstruction from its own resources.
“The total long-term cost of reconstruction in Nepal using appropriate building standards for regions vulnerable to severe earthquakes could exceed $5 billion, which is around 20 percent of Nepal’s GDP,” he says.
Nepal’s annual per capita GDP is only $1,000, and the average family lives in poverty.
“Massive international disaster relief and rescue efforts will be needed urgently, as well as large-scale international financial and technical assistance for long-term reconstruction of the economy,” says Biswas.
— Muneeza Naqvi, New Delhi
1.45 p.m. (0800 GMT)
Nepal’s police say at least 3,617 people have been confirmed killed in Saturday’s earthquake, including 1,302 in the Kathmandu Valley alone.
In addition, 6,515 people were injured nationwide, the police department said in a tweet.
So far, 18 people have been confirmed dead on Mount Everest, where an avalanche swept through base camp after the earthquake. Another 61 people were killed in neighboring India.
1:15 p.m. (0730 GMT)
Foreign tourists in Nepal are getting anxious as food, water and power remain scarce. Hotel rooms are in short supply too so Pierre-Anne Dube, a 31-year-old from Quebec, has been sleeping on the sidewalk outside a hotel. Friends had been staying there for the first two days so she could use the bathroom and shower there. But they have checked out.
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Like many others she’s scared and wants to get out on the first flight she can get.
“We can’t reach the embassy. We want to leave. We are scared. There is no food. We haven’t eaten a meal since the earthquake and we don’t have any news about what’s going on.”
She had just returned from a trek to Everest base camp, which had been the “best experience of her life,” but living the experience of the massive earthquake was definitely the “worst.”
— Katy Daigle, Kathmandu, Nepal.
1:15 p.m. (0730 GMT)
An Israeli military search and rescue crew was sent to help locate survivors in the rubble, set up a medical field hospital for locals and bring Israeli travelers home. A total of 260 Israeli military personnel are traveling to Nepal for the mission.
The military says about 150 Israeli travelers have yet to establish contact after the earthquake.
“The idea is to arrive and to try to establish communication with them,” said Col. Yoram Laredo, head of the Israeli military mission.
In addition, Israel’s emergency response service, Magen David Adom, is flying home 18 Israelis who travelled to Nepal to receive babies born to Nepalese surrogate mothers, spokesman Zaki Heller said.
— Daniel Estrin, Jerusalem
1 p.m. (0645 GMT)
Oxfam says it is gearing up to deliver clean water and sanitation supplies to thousands of Nepalis now left homeless. The aid group estimates that some 30,000 people are living in makeshift shelters in 16 government camps, too scared to return to their homes for fear of aftershocks.
“Our staff is still checking on their families and the partners we work with. At the moment, all the death count reports are coming from Kathmandu Valley. Sadly, I fear that this is only the beginning,” said Cecilia Keizer, Oxfam country director in Nepal.
11:45 a.m. (0600 GMT)
There’s a lot that the world still doesn’t really know about the Nepal quake.
The key thing is this: How significant is the destruction in Gorkha district, 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the capital and the location of the quake’s epicenter? Roads to the area, difficult on good days, are damaged. Learning about the level of destruction and human toll in the vulnerable mountain villages there could change the whole picture.
Here’s an assessment by Matt Darvas, a member of the aid group World Vision:
“Villages like this are routinely affected by landslides,” he says, “and it’s not uncommon for entire villages of 200, 300, up to 1,000 people to be completely buried by rock falls.”
11:20 a.m. (0540 GMT)
Jagdish Pokhrel, the clearly exhausted army spokesman, says nearly the entire 100,000-soldier army is involved in rescue operations.
“90 percent of the army’s out there working on search and rescue,” he said. “We are focusing our efforts on that, on saving lives.”
— Katy Daigle, Kathmandu, Nepal
11:15 a.m. (0530 GMT)
Fears are growing that thousands of people may remain cut off in isolated, devastated mountain villages.
Udav Prashad Timalsina, the top official for the Gorkha district where Saturday’s quake was centered, says he is in desperate need of help.
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“Things are really bad in the district, especially in remote mountain villages. There are people who are not getting food and shelter. I have had reports of villages where 70 percent of the houses have been destroyed,” he said when contacted by telephone. “We have been calling for help, but we haven’t received enough from the central government.”
He says 223 people had been confirmed dead in the district but he presumed “the number would go up because there are thousands who are injured.”
— Katy Daigle, Kathmandu, Nepal
11 a.m. (0515 GMT)
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says Australia has dispatched a 9-person crisis response team that is scheduled to arrive in Kathmandu later Monday and “will assist in establishing the safety and welfare of Australians currently unaccounted for” after Saturday’s earthquake. She says the team will also assist with humanitarian assessments to support Nepal’s government and the international relief efforts.
11 a.m. (0515 GMT)
New Zealand is sending 37 urban search and rescue experts to Kathmandu. Included are experts in rubble-pile rescues and technical rescues, as well as a structural engineer, a doctor, and paramedics.
New Zealand is also contributing 1 million New Zealand dollars ($761,000) to the relief effort.
Officials have made contact with over 200 New Zealanders in Nepal and are seeking contact with others. They say they have no reason to believe at this point that any New Zealanders died in the earthquake.
— Nick Perry, Wellington, New Zealand