Nepal quake survivors battle riot police as supplies run thin

  • Utpal Parashar, Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
  • Updated: Apr 30, 2015 01:10 IST

Grief turned to anger on Wednesday as Kathmandu residents clashed with police and staged demonstrations against the government’s failure to reach relief to the hilly interiors of Nepal, four days after a killer earthquake ravaged the Himalayan nation.

Officials conceded they made mistakes in their initial response, leaving survivors stranded in remote villages waiting for aid, even as the toll in the 7.9-magnitude earthquake rose to over 5,000.

Supplies are running thin and aftershocks have strained nerves in the capital city where many people are still out in the open under makeshift tents.

The pent-up anger boiled over on Wednesday morning as government buses assigned to take people to their native districts failed to turn up at the terminus.

As scuffles broke out between the angry people and police, some of the protesters forced a truck carrying drinking water off the road and climbed on top of it, throwing bottles to the crowd.

“We’re in a hurry to get home to see our families but we’ve no idea when the buses are coming,” said Kishor Kavre, a 25-year-old student.

The government acknowledged it had been overwhelmed by the devastation from the deadliest quake in Nepal in over 80 years.

“The disaster has been so huge and unprecedented that we have not been in a position to meet the expectations of the needy people. But we are ready to accept our weakness, learn and move ahead in the best way possible,” information minister and government spokesperson Minendra Rijal told a TV channel.

The government also admitted it had no data yet on the number of people missing in the quake, which has affected an estimated 8 million people, according to the United Nations.

“Relief is going to be the most important factor now,” Rijal added.

However, officials said rescue and relief work have been prompt in Kathmandu Valley, not much has happened in the other affected districts despite several countries – including India – rushing men and materials to the country.

Officials said aid reached the Gorkha district near the epicentre of the earthquake for the first time on Wednesday but a member of an UN aid agency warned it will still take time for the food and other supplies to reach survivors in remote communities who have been cut off by landslides.

A total of 5,057 people are so far known to have died in Nepal alone from Saturday's quake, and around 100 more in neighbouring India and China.

Around 8,000 were injured while the United Nations estimates that eight million people have been affected by Nepal's worst natural disaster in eight decades.

Among the dead were 18 climbers who were at Mount Everest base camp when an avalanche from the quake flattened everything in its path. The victims included two Americans, an Australian and a Chinese national.

Although the aftershocks have begun to subside, hundreds of thousands of people were still sleeping outside in the streets as their homes had either been wrecked or were feared to be on the verge of collapse.

Rescuers underlined the daunting scale of the task.

"It's a very difficult disaster zone, very compact and on top of that it's been raining," Pascal Montant, part of the French rescue team, said after one fruitless search of wreckage.

"When I took my dog off the leash it didn't give out any signal, it didn't bark, which means that possibly there's no one inside."

(With AFP inputs)

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