Nepal’s government asks aid workers to go into countryside

Kathmandu slowly getting back to normal after quake but remote areas still in crisis

The Sapoka family give an account of how they lost their home and belongings due to the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Nepal on April 25th. The death toll from the disaster has passed 6,600. Video: Concern


Nepal’s government has urged foreign aid workers to go into the beleagured countryside to help those worst affected by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that has claimed nearly 7,300 lives so far.

Aid workers were continuing to stream into Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport yesterday. Some 4,050 rescue workers from 34 different nations have flown to Nepal to help in rescue operations, provide emergency medical care and distribute food and other necessities.

Normally a sleepy airfield providing a hub for Nepali migrant workers and western backpackers, the airport now feels like a military facility during wartime.

Authorities had to temporarily close the airport to large aircraft delivering aid due to runway damage on Sunday, but UN officials said the overall logistics situation was improving. A large Netherlands Air Force cargo plane was being parked on the runway yesterday, delivering aid.

However, bottlenecks are occurring because there are too few berths for planes, and government bureaucracy has come in for criticism too, with standard procedures being followed at a time of crisis when more urgent steps are required.

Trekkers’ bodies

Nepali police and local volunteers found the bodies of about 100 trekkers and villagers buried in an avalanche set off by the earthquake, according to officials. The trekkers’ bodies were recovered on Saturday and Sunday at Langtang village, 60km north of Kathmandu.

The entire village, which includes 55 guesthouses for trekkers, was wiped out by the avalanche, officials said.

On a day when many people visited Buddhist shrines and monasteries, some of them damaged by the quake on April 25th, to mark the birthday of Gautam Buddha, information minister Minendra Rijal said the impoverished Himalayan nation would need the assistance of the international community to rebuild.

There had been earlier reports that the Nepal government had asked all foreign aid workers to leave, reportedly upset that neighbouring India was taking too much credit for relief operations, but Mr Rijal subsequently denied the reports.

Some analysts believe reconstruction of the shattered economy, which relies heaviliy on remittances from migrant workers for a third of its gross domestic economy, could cost up to €10 billion.

“In two to three weeks a serious reconstruction package needs to be developed, where we’ll need enormous help from the international community,” Mr Rijal said. “There’s a huge, huge funding gap.”

Mr Rijal said that most of the major rescue work in Kathmandu and the surrounding areas had been done and locals could handle the situation, but he urged foreign aid volunteers to work with local police and army rescuers in hard-to-reach areas.

So far 14,355 people are know to have been injured in the quake.