By Anil Giri and Gaurav Sharma,
Kathmandu : The death toll in Nepal’s deadly earthquake could touch as high as 10,000, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala warned on Tuesday, as the Himalayan nation battled food and water shortages and rescuers reached some of the remotest areas worst hit by the disaster.
With nearly 4,400 people already confirmed dead, many of the thousands injured in critical condition and hundreds missing, the fatalities from Saturday’s 7.9 magnitude temblor could soar up to 10,000, Koirala told envoys of India, China and the US here.
More than 7,500 people have been injured in the quake. “It’s a frightening situation,” a senior official told IANS.
Koirala’s alarming assessment came as an army of rescuers – Nepalese as well as foreigners – worked feverishly to look for people who may still be buried under tonnes of debris that came crashing down on Saturday.
But even as international aid poured into Kathmandu, with volunteers reaching some of the remotest parts of the landlocked nation, it became clear that the earthquake may turn out to be worse than the one that claimed over 8,000 lives in 1934 in Nepal.
The UN said the quake had impacted eight million in 39 districts, of which over two million live in 11 most severely affected districts.
The immediate priority of the victims include food, water, shelter and medication, the UN said, adding 1.4 million people were in urgent need of food assistance.
The Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders said after an initial survey that sanitation conditions were worsening, particularly outside of Kathmandu, due to lack of toilets and clean water.
MSF said that while most buildings in Kathmandu remained standing, thousands were spending the days and nights out in the open because of fears of what continuing aftershocks could do. But other areas had suffered widespread destruction, including Bhaktapur, east of Kathmandu.
Officials and rescuers warned that rains predicted over the next 10 days would add to human misery, hampering relief efforts. It could also lead to further health problems.
Even as it sought more aid from the international community, Nepal on Tuesday requested all countries and international organisations not to send relief material unilaterally to “ensure effective coordination”.
The government said the relief materials highly required now were tents, mattresses, blankets, water purifiers, sanitation kits, utensils, medical teams, medical experts and para-medics.
In the Kathmandu Valley, small grocery shops finally reopened on Tuesday but large businesses and banks remain closed. ATMs are functional but they aren’t getting fresh replenishment of cash.
Power supply in Kathmandu is limited. Most households and offices rely on generator power.
With fuel reserves running low, cars and trucks lined up at most gas stations here.
The dead in the quake include at least 10 foreigners — from India, China, Australia, France and the US. Since Saturday, thousands have been cremated near the famed Pashupatinath temple here.
Nepal also grappled with an acute water scarcity. In Kathmandu, women holding plastic buckets stood in long queues near mobile water tankers to take their share.
Many of the thousands of men, women and children who spent a third chilly night out in the open in Kathmandu were in the same clothes they were in when they fled their homes on Saturday.
Many people use plastic sheets and cardboards to sleep on. Blankets have become a much sought after luxury.
Hospitals are overwhelmed and treating many of the wounded in the open due to lack of space. Some have reported cases of diarrhoea. Medical waste has also started accumulating in various hospitals, said Basudev Pandey at the main hospital at Patan, near Kathmandu.