Nepal earthquake: Racing against time, government pleads for rescue helicopters to reach remote mountain regions

A mood of panic has led to fights breaking out among those anxious to board helicopters

Kim Sengupta
Friday 01 May 2015 21:44
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An elderly woman prays at a temple in Kathmandu damaged by the earthquake
An elderly woman prays at a temple in Kathmandu damaged by the earthquake

The Nepalese government has made an urgent request for helicopters to cope with an escalating humanitarian crisis after Saturday’s devastating earthquake.

The death toll has risen to 6,260 and authorities say it could top 10,000. Thousands are still missing.

Thousands more remain stranded in mountain villages, with just 20 helicopters available for rescue and relief operations. In a region that stretches hundreds of miles, authorities say they are in desperate need of more resources. The small fleet has also been hampered by maintenance problems.

A mood of panic has led to fights breaking out among those anxious to board helicopters. About 1,000 EU citizens remain unaccounted for after the quake, which hit during the height of the trekking season, according to the EU ambassador to Nepal, Rensje Teerink.

The British Government has announced that three RAF CH-47 Chinook helicopters will arrive in the country in the next few days. A team of Gurkha engineers has arrived aboard a C-17, along with 18 tonnes of supplies including shelter kits and solar lanterns.

The Nepalese government, which has admitted failures in its response, said it would give the equivalent of £680 to families of each victim killed in the earthquake, and another £270 for funeral costs, according to Nepal Radio. Locals have accused the government of being too slow to distribute aid.

Meanwhile, 13 of the UK’s leading humanitarian agencies delivering aid to Nepal have warned that hundreds of thousands living out in the open will be particularly vulnerable to the coming Monsoon.

As rains intensified throughout May before the monsoon season in June, there was a real risk of waterborne disease outbreaks such as cholera and diarrhoea, the Disasters Emergency Committee said.

In Kathmandu, bodies were still being pulled from the debris of ruined buildings, and unclaimed bodies were quickly cremated to prevent the spread of disease.

Amid the tragedy of the week’s events, a glimmer of hope shone through, after a girl was born to a young Nepalese couple at a temporary field hospital.

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