Death Toll Still Rising as Relief Efforts Contend with Aftershocks in Nepal
State of Emergency has been declared and relief efforts underway as official death toll from massive earthquake surpasses 2,200 people and continues to rise
As relief and rescue efforts continue in Nepal following an earthquake which killed more than 2,200 people on Saturday, people in the region were forced to seek safety on Sunday after a substantial 6.7 magnitude aftershock hit the Himalayan nation.
According to the Associated Press:
Sleeping in the streets and shell-shocked, Nepalese cremated the dead and dug through rubble for the missing Sunday, a day after a massive Himalayan earthquake killed more than 2,200 people. Aftershocks tormented them, making buildings sway and sending panicked Kathmandu residents running into the streets.
The cawing of crows mixed with terrified screams as the worst of the aftershocks — magnitude 6.7 — pummeled the capital city. It came as planeloads of supplies, doctors and relief workers from neighboring countries began arriving in this poor Himalayan nation. No deaths or injuries were reported from the early Sunday afternoon quake, but it took an emotional toll.
"The aftershocks keep coming ... so people don't know what to expect," said Sanjay Karki, Nepal country head for global aid agency Mercy Corps. "All the open spaces in Kathmandu are packed with people who are camping outdoors. When the aftershocks come you cannot imagine the fear. You can hear women and children crying."
Saturday's magnitude 7.8 earthquake spread horror from Kathmandu to small villages and to the slopes of Mount Everest, triggering an avalanche that buried part of the base camp packed with foreign climbers preparing to make their summit attempts. At least 17 people died there and 61 were injured.
In a dispatch from Nepal, Oxfam International's in-country director Cecilia Keizer reported scenes of destruction in central portions of the country and the relief effort now underway.
"Communication is currently very difficult," Keizer said. "Telephone lines are down and the electricity has been cut off making charging mobile phones difficult. The water is also cut off. The number of people killed is continuing to rise. Many of the old houses have been destroyed and at least one large apartment block has come down in Kathmandu. Given the closeness to the epicentre Pokhara must also be badly affected. Oxfam is preparing to help provide clean water and emergency food. People are gathered in their thousands in open spaces and are scared as there have been several aftershocks."
The official death toll is expected to keep rising, with AP reporting available indications suggest it could do so "substantially."
The Guardian newspaper, meanwhile, continues to offer rolling coverage and updates on its site and offered this summary of notable developments for Sunday morning:
- The death toll from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on Saturday has risen to more than 2,200. More than 5,000 people have been injured. Powerful aftershocks today between Kathmandu and Everest unleashed more avalanches in the Himalayas and caused panic in the capital, where hospital workers stretchered patients out into the street as it was too dangerous treat them indoors.
- A state of emergency has been declared Many historic landmarks, including the Dharahara tower, have been reduced to rubble following the quake.
- Governments are scrambling to locate thousands of their nationals and relatives took to social media to find their loved ones. The international community has pledged support and aid packages to the stricken nation. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has said the US will pledge $1m to the aid effort and will also assist with a disaster response team. Australia has also pledged a Aus$5m aid package, while Sri Lanka, the UK, China and others are all sending disaster response teams to assist in search and rescue. Pope Francis led prayers in St Peter’s Square for the dead and displaced in Nepal and surrounding areas.
- The quakes caused widespread damage to Nepal’s infrastructure which has further hampered search and rescue operations. Injured climbers at Mount Everest, where an avalanche struck following the quake, have been flown by helicopter to receive medical treatment.