The death toll from Nepal’s devastating earthquake rose steadily past 6,200 on Friday, although the devastated capital city showed signs of normal life with nervous survivors camping in parks and roadsides moving back indoors and coffee shops opening to serve tired patrons.
Hot espressos at the posh Illy café in Lainchaur near Narayanhiti Palace, now a museum, and the bustle of traffic were subtle signs of a crawl-back to life.
“It seems a curfew has been lifted. There was only a deafening silence here till yesterday. Things seem to be ge, death , tting a little better,” said Nepal Investment Bank executive Pramod Saha, sipping coffee at Illy.
The haunting siren of ambulances broke his thought.
Fresh aftershocks, rain and the overpowering stench of rotting corpses trapped underneath collapsed buildings underlined how the prospects of finding survivors were becoming more remote.
Among the dead in Nepal were 38 Indians, the highest number of casualties among foreigners. Most of them died in Kathmandu, including nine inside a hotel in Thamel while four were buried under the collapsed Dharahara tower.
Away from the capital, aid was being airdropped in some of Nepal’s far-flung towns and villages nestled among mountains and foothills. But transporting goods overland remained a challenge because roads were blocked by landslides.
The anxiety of people from worst-affected places was palpable. “We lost everything … house, belongings, friends and relatives. This darkness will always haunt us,” said 25-year-old Kalpana Pandit Lama, who dreads returning to Bhaktapur.
There were others priming for a second shot at life. “I want to carve out a bright future for myself. Good memories can blunt the pain of the bad ones,” says Asma Silwal, a student of Tribhuwan University in Kirtipur.
Disposal of bodies was becoming a problem for officials, who have ordered immediate cremations six days after the 7.9-magnitude quake hit the Himalayan nation.
Nepal’s overworked medical centres, as well as field hospitals set up by India and other foreign nations, were reporting a spike in water-borne illnesses.
The WHO said a quick assessment of the worst-hit districts has found some hospitals damaged or destroyed but most are coping well with no extra staff or beds required. The Nepalese health system took measures to prepare for such emergencies, it added.
The United Nations says, 600,000 houses have been destroyed or damaged.
“Inaccessibility to some remote areas, the lack of helicopters, poor communication and security concerns remain the main challenges in delivering relief,” said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN secretary-general.
(With agency inputs)