A powerful aftershock jolted Nepal and parts of India on Sunday, triggering fresh fears and weighing down salvage efforts as rescue workers raced to dig through rubble with bare hands in sporadic rain which is predicted to turn heavy .
By Monday morning, the death toll in Nepal's worst earthquake in 81 years rose to 3,218, AFP reported.
The Nepalese capital resembled a bombed-out city with no power and dwindling supplies, so as the countryside that remained cut off from the rest of the world.
The Saturday midday quake flattened homes and historic sites but casualties in rural areas were said to be much less than estimated because thatch-roof houses common in villages and open spaces proved a blessing.
Sources in New Delhi said the Nepalese government lowered the death toll estimate, which stood at 4,500 till Saturday night, as an assessment of the devastation revealed maximum casualties in urban areas - not in the cut-off rural hinterland as previously thought.
Incessant aftershocks continued through Sunday and the major one - a 6.7-magnitude jolter - recorded in the afternoon was felt across northern and eastern India and Bangladesh. These slowed down rescue efforts and periodically closed airports where thousands, mainly tourists, have gathered to catch a flight out of the ravaged nation.
Grieving families cremated hundreds of victims of Nepal's earthquake near the famed Pashupatinath temple, confusion and overcrowding marking the final rites. Relatives jostled for space in the vast area to cremate the dead. Lack of adequate space forced hundreds to perform the last rites outside the designated spots. "People are conducting the last rites wherever they can and without following the proper rituals," a witness said.
Video:People receive treatment on roads in Kathmandu
Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar said in Delhi the situation could turn "very, very serious" as heavy rainfall is predicted over the next two days, triggering landslides and hampering salvage efforts .
The weather department asked people to remain alert. "The weather forecasting centre of the India Meteorological Department has predicted fairly widespread rain/thundershower activity over Nepal over the next four hours. The activity is most likely to become widespread on April 27 and 28," reads a ministry of earth science statement.
Rain is the last thing Nepal would be hoping for as hundreds are feared trapped or missing in parts of Nepal and around Everest, where a fresh avalanche struck a portion of the base camp that serves as a staging point for those looking to scale the world's highest peak.
"There are over 200 missing. But there is no confirmation on how many were buried under snow in the avalanche or making their way back down on their own," Nepal tourism ministry spokesperson Mohan Krishna Sapkota.
The forecast is monitored closely in India which is at forefront of an international mission to look for survivors and get people to safety, sending planeloads of aid material, doctors and relief workers. People were being evacuated by air and road, though traffic remained clogged because of cracks caused by the quake.
Rescuers clear the debris at Durbar Sqaure after the earthquake in Kathmandu. (AP Photo)
Besides, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a review meet with cabinet colleagues and top officials to further step up rescue and relief operations in the friendly neighbouring nation and affected states as the toll over two days of tremors climbed to 66 in India.
Bihar took the brunt of the quake with 50 deaths. The Union government has announced to pay Rs 6 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased.
Tens of thousands of people in the Kathmandu Valley and major towns and cities spent the night in the open, under tents or on the streets in freezing temperatures and rain. Survivors were seen wandering on the streets clutching flimsy bed rolls and blankets, looking for food and water.
Government and private hospitals were overwhelmed by the rush of patients, and running out of emergency supplies and space to store corpses. "We are dealing mostly with fractures, cuts, head injuries and internal and external bleeding," said Dr Sanjeev Tiwari at Tribhuban University Teaching Hospital.
International agencies and governments rushed to send search and rescue teams, doctors and medicines to Nepal.
Teams from Pakistan, the United States, China and Israel were already on the spot to help along with India. Other international search teams have or are scheduled to arrive in the capital Kathmandu, with units from Japan, the United States and Britain equipped with sniffer dogs and equipment for heavy lifting.
Britain said it believed "several hundred" of its nationals were in Nepal and that some were "almost certainly" caught up in the earthquake.
(With inputs from HT correspondents in New Delhi)
Nepal government: +97714200258, +97714200105, +97714200203
Indian Embassy in Kathmandu: +977 9851107021, +977 9851135141
24-hour control rooms: +91 11 2301 2113, +91 11 2301 4104, +91 11 2301 7905
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