Two aftershocks jolted Nepal on Thursday morning, six days after a deadly earthquake killed thousands across the Himalayan country, even as rescue and relief workers pushed into the rural interiors where stricken people still awaited aid since Saturday’s temblor.
The aftershocks, however, did not trigger much panic among the residents of Kathmandu, by now accustomed to the intermittent shaking of their homes and shops, most of which have been damaged to varying degrees.
What has added to the discomfort of the people and aid workers are the intermittent rains which lashed the capital and its surroundings since last night, hampering relief and rescue operations mounted by several countries including India.
A total of 5,489 people are now known to have died in the 7.9-magnitude quake, according to an update from the National Emergency Operation Centre, while more than 100 others were killed in neighbouring India and China.
The figure did not include the 19 people killed at Mount Everest -- five foreign climbers and 14 Nepalese Sherpa guides -- when the quake unleashed an avalanche at base camp.
With more than eight million Nepalese affected by the earthquake, including 1.4 million who need immediate food assistance, US President Barack Obama called Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and discussed US military and civilian efforts already underway to help Nepal, the White House said.
Congresswoman Grace Meng announced to have co-sponsored a legislation that grants temporary protected status to Nepalese citizens presently in the US who have been impacted by the earthquake.
The Temporary Protected Status Act of 2015 would protect citizens of Nepal from deportation or detainment so that they are not forced to return to unsafe conditions in their homeland.
People queue for food handouts after Saturday's earthquake near Chautara, Nepal, April 29, 2015. (Reuters)
Help at last
The first supplies of food aid began reaching some remote villages as helicopters brought food, temporary shelter and other aid to hamlets north of Kathmandu in the mountainous Gorkha district near the epicentre of Saturday’s quake.
Entire clusters of homes there were reduced to piles of stone and splintered wood. Women greeted the delivery with repeated cries of “We are hungry!”
The UN World Food Program warned that it will take time for food and other supplies to reach more remote communities that have been cut off by landslides.
“More helicopters, more personnel and certainly more relief supplies, including medical teams, shelter, tents, water and sanitation and food, are obviously needed,” said the program’s Geoff Pinnock, who was coordinating the flights.
Planes carrying food and other supplies have been steadily arriving at Kathmandu’s small airport, but the aid distribution process remains fairly chaotic, with Nepalese officials having difficulty directing the flow of emergency supplies.
A report from Washington said, Indian Americans from across the country are mobilising support for the victims in Nepal, with a large number of organisations raising funds for the people of the quake-ravaged country.