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Nepal earthquake: First glimpse of devastation wrought on remote Gorkha region at heart of quake - as wood runs low for cremations

BY CAHAL MILMO AND ISHWAR RAUNIYAR IN KATHMANDU

Published 27/04/2015

A man walks out of a damaged house in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal.
A man walks out of a damaged house in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal.

Laprak is normally a place teeming with life. The 2,000 inhabitants of its 460 stone houses farm the surrounding terraces and dry crops on wooden platforms. Now, this village at the epicentre of the Nepalese earthquake more closely resembled matchwood.

As emergency aid flights from Britain and around the world began to land in Kathmandhu, bringing with them desperately needed supplies for hundreds of thousands in need of food and water, the first glimpse was offered of the devastation wrought on Nepal’s remote Gorkha region at the heart of Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude quake.

A picture taken from a helicopter overflying Laprak some 140 miles west of the capital, obtained by The Independent, shows home after home flattened by the tremor and the surrounding fertile terraces, used to grow barley and millet, gouged by the vast energy unleashed from beneath the earth. Of life among its 2,165 souls, there was little sign.

Baburam Bhattari, a former Nepalese prime minister who took the photograph while overflying his native district, said roads to the village had been destroyed and rescuers had no chance to reach its residents. It was an image which he said he feared had been repeated across the 1,000 villages of the Gorkha district, which covers 3,600 square kilometres and is home to 288,000 people.

Mr Bhattari said: “The entire village and hill is destroyed. No relief and rescue is being carried out. Such kinds of terrible pictures may be found elsewhere in Nepal, where helicopters cannot land and people cannot reach [the injured] on foot.”

The official death toll from the disaster last night rose to 3,922 with 7,119 injured as hospitals in Kathmandhu and towns in the quake zone were overwhelmed with an unceasing tide of casualties.

The Nepalese government appealed for material and human aid ranging from tents and helicopters to orthopaedic surgeons and anaesthetists. One official said: “We have not been able to reach the people who need help on time.”

The true scale of the tragedy will only become clear as Nepalese and international teams begin to reach the remote communities of Gorkha, where initial reports from survivors said up to 90 per cent of homes in some villages have been destroyed. Some communities are so remote they can only be reached after three days’ walk.

Aid workers described dazed survivors sitting among the rubble of their homes in pouring rain, the lucky few able to fashion basic shelters from pieces of plastic sheeting.

Matt Darvas, an aid worker with World Vision who reached the region, said: “It does not seem aid is reaching here very quickly. Further north from here the reports are very disturbing.”

Volunteers and emergency workers search for bodies buried under the debris of one of the temples at Basantapur Durbar Square on April 27, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images)
Volunteers and emergency workers search for bodies buried under the debris of one of the temples at Basantapur Durbar Square on April 27, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. (Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images)
This picture taken on April 26, 2015 shows Nepalese students and Chinese students gathering to pray for Nepal in Nanhua University in Hengyang, central China's Hunan province. International rescue teams and relief supplies began arriving in Nepal's devastated capital on April 27 to help terrified and homeless survivors of a quake that has killed more than 3,200 people in the impoverished nation. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks out of a damaged house in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Undated handout photo issued by International Federation of Red Cross of rescue work in Kathmandu, Nepal following an earthquake which left more than 3,500 dead and thousands of others injured. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday April 27, 2015. See PA story QUAKE Nepal. Photo credit should read: Carl Whetham/IFRC/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.
Israeli women cuddle a newborn baby of a homosexual couple who was born in Nepal to a surrogate mother after they were repatriated to Israel from quake-hit Nepal, a Tel Aviv airport, on April 27, 2015. Israel began repatriating its nationals from Nepal, including two groups of babies born to surrogate mothers in Kathmandu whose fathers are homosexual Israelis, officials said. Nepal has become a destination for people seeking to have children through surrogate mothers, though the practice is controversial, with critics saying it exploits the poverty of women. AFP PHOTO / TOMER NEUBERG == ISRAEL OUT ==Tomer Neuberg/AFP/Getty Images
An Israeli homosexual man carries his baby inside a bus at a Tel Aviv airport after they were repatriated from quake-hit Nepal, on April 27, 2015. Israel began repatriating its nationals from quake-hit Nepal, including two groups of babies born to surrogate mothers in Kathmandu whose fathers are homosexual Israelis, officials said. Nepal has become a destination for people seeking to have children through surrogate mothers, though the practice is controversial, with critics saying it exploits the poverty of women. AFP PHOTO / TOMER NEUBERG == ISRAEL OUT ==Tomer Neuberg/AFP/Getty Images
A wall at the Kathmandu airport that collapsed during Saturday's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. Chaos has reigned at Kathmandu's small airport since the earthquake, with the onslaught of relief flights causing major backups on the tarmac. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
Nepalese carry the body of their relative killed in the recent earthquake for cremation at the Pashupatinath temple, on the banks of Bagmati river, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake shook Nepals capital and the densely populated Kathmandu valley on Saturday devastating the region and leaving some tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
A Nepalese man waits for the cremation of his relative killed in the recent earthquake, at the Pashupatinath temple, on the banks of Bagmati river, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake shook Nepals capital and the densely populated Kathmandu valley on Saturday devastating the region and leaving some tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
Video taken from a drone Saturday April 25 2015 shows devastation in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, caused by Saturday's quake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday April 27 2015, as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. In much of the countryside, it was worse, though how much worse was only beginning to become apparent. The official death toll soared past 4-thousand, even without a full accounting from vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo / KISHNOR RANA)
Video taken from a drone Saturday April 25 2015 shows devastation in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, caused by Saturday's quake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday April 27 2015, as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. In much of the countryside, it was worse, though how much worse was only beginning to become apparent. The official death toll soared past 4-thousand, even without a full accounting from vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo / KISHNOR RANA)
Video taken from a drone Saturday April 25 2015 shows devastation in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, caused by Saturday's quake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday April 27 2015, as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. In much of the countryside, it was worse, though how much worse was only beginning to become apparent. The official death toll soared past 4-thousand, even without a full accounting from vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo / KISHNOR RANA)
Nepalese victims of Saturdays earthquake lie inside an Indian air force helicopter as they are evacuated from Trishuli Bazar to Kathmandu airport in Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. The death toll from Nepal's earthquake is expected to rise depended largely on the condition of vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
A Nepalese family collects belongings from their home destroyed in Saturday's earthquake, in Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake shook Nepals capital and the densely populated Kathmandu valley on Saturday devastating the region and leaving tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
Nepalese soldiers carry a wounded woman to a waiting Indian air force helicopter as they evacuate victims of Saturdays earthquake from Trishuli Bazar to Kathmandu airport in Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. The death toll from Nepal's earthquake is expected to rise depended largely on the condition of vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
A hindu priest lights the funeral pyre of a victim of Saturday's earthquake, at the Pashupatinath temple, on the banks of Bagmati river, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake shook Nepals capital and the densely populated Kathmandu valley on Saturday devastating the region and leaving some tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
Local residents walk past vehicles held up in a traffic jam on the mountain highway from Kathmandu near the epicenter of Saturday's massive earthquake in the Gorkha District, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. Shelter, fuel, food, medicine, power, news, workers Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
Video taken from a drone Saturday April 25 2015 shows devastation in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, caused by Saturday's quake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday April 27 2015, as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. In much of the countryside, it was worse, though how much worse was only beginning to become apparent. The official death toll soared past 4-thousand, even without a full accounting from vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo / KISHNOR RANA)
Suresh, 16, right, watches as a priest prepares the funeral pyre for his younger brother Umesh, 13, killed in Saturday's earthquake, at the Pashupatinath temple, on the banks of the Bagmati river, in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake shook Nepals capital and the densely populated Kathmandu valley on Saturday devastating the region and leaving some tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. (AP Photo / Manish Swarup)
Video taken from a drone Saturday April 25 2015 shows devastation in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, caused by Saturday's quake that measured 7.8 on the Richter Scale. Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday April 27 2015, as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. In much of the countryside, it was worse, though how much worse was only beginning to become apparent. The official death toll soared past 4-thousand, even without a full accounting from vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo / KISHNOR RANA)
A Nepalese man has food inside a tent as people stay on open ground from fears of earthquake tremors in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. A strong magnitude earthquake shook Nepals capital and the densely populated Kathmandu valley on Saturday devastating the region and leaving tens of thousands shell-shocked and sleeping in streets. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
An aerial view of tents setup by residents in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. Shelter, fuel, food, medicine, power, news, workers Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
A man sits with a child on his lap as victims of Saturdays earthquake, wait for ambulances after being evacuated at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. The death toll from Nepal's earthquake is expected to rise depended largely on the condition of vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
An aerial view of tents setup by residents in Kathmandu, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. Shelter, fuel, food, medicine, power, news, workers Nepal's earthquake-hit capital was short on everything Monday as its people searched for lost loved ones, sorted through rubble for their belongings and struggled to provide for their families' needs. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
In this photo provided by World Vision, a house stands destroyed by Saturdays earthquake at Paslang village in Gorkha municipality, Nepal, Monday, April 27, 2015. Reports received so far by the government and aid groups suggest that many communities perched on mountainsides are devastated or struggling to cope. Udav Prashad Timalsina, the top official for the Gorkha district, near the epicenter of Saturday's quake, said he was in desperate need of help. (Bishwo Ghimire/World Vision via AP)
In this handout picture released on April 27, 2015 an RAF C-17 is loaded with aid at RAF Brize Norton, north west of London to be flown to Nepal. The flight will include more than 1,100 shelter kits and over 1,700 solar lanterns, along with a team of Gurkha engineers to assist relief efforts after a devastating earthquake killed more than 3,800 people. AFP PHOTO / NEIL BRYDEN / MOD / CROWN COPYRIGHT 2015 RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT " AFP PHOTO / NEIL BRYDEN / MOD / CROWN COPYRIGHT 2015 " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - NO ARCHIVE - TO BE USED WITHIN 2 DAYS FROM APRIL 27, 2014 (48 HOURS), EXCEPT FOR MAGAZINES WHICH CAN PRINT THE PICTURE WHEN FIRST REPORTING ON THE EVENTNEIL BRYDEN/AFP/Getty Images
People search amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
People search amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
People search amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Residents look at collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
People walk through the ruins of Bhaktapur's Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks next to collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
People carry their belongings amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Residents look on from the top of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Nepalese rescue personnel and volunteers observe damaged buildings in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Rescue personnel search for survivors amidst the rubble in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Rescue personnel search for survivors amidst the rubble in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Rescue personnel search for survivors amidst the rubble in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, are seen on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
A man walks amidst the rubble of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
People walk through a neighbourhood with collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
People walk through a neighbourhood with collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on April 27, 2015, two days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMAPRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
Nepalese people stand in line to get food from a community kitchen in Kathmandu on April 27, 2015. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO/PRAKASH SINGHPRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images
This handout photo released on April 27, 2015 by the Indian Ministry of Defence shows evacuated people from earthquake-hit Nepal deboarding an Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft at Air Force Station Palam in New Delhi on April 26. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO / MOD ----EDITORS NOTE---- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT - "AFP PHOTO / MOD " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS------MOD/AFP/Getty Images
Indian schoolgirls light candles for the victims of an earthquake in Nepal at a school in Amritsar on April 27, 2015. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital on April 27 after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. AFP PHOTO/NARINDER NANUNARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistani residents pray during a candle light vigil for the victims of Nepal earthquake in Multan on April 27, 2015. Nepalis started fleeing their devastated capital after an earthquake killed more than 3,800 people and toppled entire streets, as the United Nations prepared a "massive" aid operation. With fears rising of food and water shortages, people were also rushing to stores and petrol stations to stock up on supplies in the capital, ripped apart by Saturday's 7.8-magnitude quake. AFP PHOTO/ SS MIRZASS MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images
KATHMANDU, NEPAL - APRIL 27: Rescue team members search for bodies in the debris of a collapsed temple at Basantapur Durbar Square on April 27, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving over 3000 dead and many more trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors. (Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***

There were, however, conflicting reports about the number of casualties arising from such widespread devastation.

Udav Prashad Timalsina, the top official in Gorkha, said there had been 223 confirmed deaths but “the number would go up because there are thousands who are injured”. Other reports from the region said many appeared to have been able to flee their collapsing homes and deaths were expected to be “in the hundreds, not the thousands”.

With tens of thousands of Nepalese spending their third night sleeping outside for fear of further building collapses, and water and electricity supplies disrupted amid reports of food shortages, aid agencies warned nonetheless that the situation remained grave. Up to 100,000 people have been made homeless by the disaster and epidemics are an acute risk.

Lila Mani Poudyal, the government’s chief secretary and the rescue co-ordinator, appealed for more help from the international community.

He said: “We are appealing for tents, dry goods, blankets, mattresses, and 80 different medicines that the health department is seeking that we desperately need now. We don’t have the helicopters that we need or the expertise to rescue the people trapped.”

In this overwhelmingly Hindu country of 28 million, cremation is the norm and one of the most pressing shortages was of wood necessary to build the thousands of pyres needed to burn the dead.

At the Pashupati Nath temple in Kathmandu some 300 funeral rites were held yesterday, with smoke from dozens of pyres at time rising into the sky but with 250kg of wood needed for each cremation, stocks were fast running out.

Two RAF aircraft carrying aid supplies were among several dozen flights due to land at Kathmandu small airport on Monday as the international rescue operation began to reach a critical mass. Flights with tonnes of material, including mobile hospitals, were due from India, Pakistan, the United States, Israel, Australia and New Zealand.

British specialist rescue teams reached the capital to begin combing the wreckage for survivors.

Some 40 Britons visiting or living in Nepal - a popular destination for trekkers and gap-year students - remained missing as mobile phone networks and internet connections continued to be disrupted. On Everest, a race against time was under way to airlift up to 200 climbers trapped above the site of the avalanche triggered by the earthquake, which claimed 18 lives on the mountain.

The trauma of the quake was meanwhile causing thousands of Nepalese to attempt to flee Kathmandu due to the fear of further aftershocks and concern about shortages. The authorities have warned traders against profiteering after complaints emerged of taxi drivers and other public vehicles up to six-times the pre-quake rates for journeys.

Others, however, were left to begin to get to grips with the grief caused by abrupt loss of so many lives.

In Kathmandu’s Bir hospital, where like other medical facilities, casualties have had to queue outdoors for treatment that takes hours if not days to arrive, 12-year-old Sarmila Saha was asking her grandmother when her mother, Sunita, would come to visit her.

Sunita was one of five killed when the family home collapsed. Her grandmother said: “I don’t know what to say, or what not to say. She doesn’t want to eat anything but is repeatedly asking for her mother.”

Doctors said the repeated tremors and aftershocks were taking their toll on survivors, causing people to run into the streets crying and screaming with every movement.

Dr Unni Krishnan, of Plan International, said a particular concern was to arrange proper lighting and protection in temporary shelters for children and young girls to prevent them from being preyed upon by traffickers.

Above all, there was a sense that an already impoverished country has been taken back to zero.

Dr Krishnan said: “The relief efforts could last anything between 30 and 60 days. We will have to start rehabilitation works. The earthquake wiped out any development this country has seen.”

Source: Independent

Independent News Service

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