Rescue efforts continue in Nepal, following the deadly earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that devastated the country. The death toll quickly climbed from hundreds to thousands, and has now already surpassed 5,500. It has risen every day since the earthquake.
Despite the already high death toll, relief efforts in Nepal have scored some successes, even through very unaccommodating weather. Heavy rains have complicated matters and made rescue efforts far more difficult than they otherwise might be. The heavy rains have also added to the misery of those who are suffering following the massive earthquake that struck on Saturday.
Nepal’s minister of information, Minendra Rijal, reported that 866 people had been rescued by air, while over 1,000 had been rescued by land. Still, many of the affected people live in remote mountain passes that are extremely difficult to get to under normal conditions, let alone with the heavy rains. These conditions have proven exceedingly difficult for frustrated workers trying to provide relief efforts. In addition, Nepal is a poor country with very limited resources, which has limited relief efforts further still.
Rijal said that rescue efforts will continue, although a lot more is still required, and the country needs help. He said that life is beginning to return to normal, although he estimated that it would take a long time before things feel entirely normal again.
One thing that Rijal was not able to clarify was a precise estimate on just how many Nepalese were rendered homeless as a result of the earthquake. However, he did report that the government had provided 4,700 tents and 22,000 tarpaulins for those in need. Still, some estimates suggest that Nepal needs half a million tents to serve as temporary shelter for those rendered homeless from the earthquake and aftershocks.
Although the center of the 7.8 earthquake was in the district of Gorkha, the United Nations estimated that eight million Nepalese were left homeless throughout 39 districts across the country. Many homes were destroyed and, in other cases, some people still do not feel safe so soon after the earthquake and the aftershocks that followed.
Nepal is receiving help for the crisis from countries around the world. The country was in desperate need of helicopters, and neighboring India provided seven helicopters to provide assistance. The arrival of tents via aircraft are expected from India and Thailand, and an additional 100,000 tents are expected to arrive from Pakistan. Millions of dollars are pouring in from China, and charity money and supplies have been pouring in from all over the world.
Still, much needs to be done to provide adequate assistance to those affected by the earthquake. UNICEF’s Regional Communication Advisor Jean-Jacques Simon stressed that much is desperately needed for those now living in camps in and near Nepal’s capital city, Kathmandu, and the surrounding regions. Tundhikal Park has now been given the nickname “Tent City”, and although the crowds that are thinning there might seem like a positive sign, even this may not necessarily be a sign that matters are improving.
American President Barack Obama called Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and expressed condolences. Obama had not spoken to Koirala since the earthquake struck the country on Saturday.
Overall, the death toll has consistently risen since the earthquake struck the Himalayan nation, and the real question is just how large the casualty figure is expected to reach when all is said and done. According to an estimate by Max Wyse of the International Center for Earth Simulation based in Geneva, Switzerland, the death toll could reach as high as more than 57,000.
Still, nobody knows just yet precisely how high the final death count will be. For now, however, Nepal is still trying to return to normal and continuing relief efforts, even while the death toll continues to rise.
By Charles Bordeau
Photo courtesy of Marina & Enriqua’s Flickr page – Creativecommons Creative Commons License