US & World

Nepal quake: UN officials fear spread of disease as death toll passes 6,800

A Nepali woman cries as she participates in a candle light vigil for victims of last week's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Saturday.
A Nepali woman cries as she participates in a candle light vigil for victims of last week's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Saturday.
Niranjan Shrestha/AP

Update: Fears of disease after Nepal quake

U.N. humanitarian officials in Nepal say they are increasingly worried about the spread of disease. They say more helicopters are needed to reach isolated mountain villages, which were hard to access even before the massive earthquake quake struck a week ago.

The true extent of the damage from the magnitude-7.8 quake is still unknown as reports keep filtering in from remote areas, some of which remain entirely cut off. The U.N. has estimated the quake affected 8.1 million people — more than a quarter of Nepal's 28 million people. The government's latest number is 6,841 dead, with little hope of finding survivors.

Nepal has been shaken by more than 70 aftershocks, and its people remain on edge. One brief aftershock Sunday afternoon shook the village of Pauwathok.

Pauwathok is located in the district of Sindupalchok, where more deaths have been recorded than anywhere else in Nepal — 2,560, compared to 1,622 in Kathmandu. The U.N. says up to 90 percent of the houses in Sindupalchok have been destroyed.

— The Associated Press

Earlier: Death toll in Nepal crosses 6,800

Authorities in Nepal now say the number of dead from a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit the South Asian country a week ago has risen to 6,841, as rescue workers recover more bodies from the wreckage. More than 14,000 are reported injured.

NPR's Russell Lewis, reporting from Kathmandu, says thousands are still missing and some 130,000 homes and buildings have been destroyed and another 10,000 buildings have been demolished, according to the government.

"Still, across Kathmandu today more people are out on the streets, businesses are reopening and trash collection is set to resume on Sunday," Russell reports.

But there were signs that Nepal's bureaucracy is hampering relief efforts. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the government on Friday exempted tarpaulins and ends from import duties:

"[But] UN Resident Representative Jamie McGoldrick said the government had to loosen customs restrictions further to deal with the increasing flow of relief material."

" 'They should not be using peacetime customs methodology,' he said. Material was piling up at the Kathmandu airport instead of being ferried out to victims, McGoldrick said."

"There was no immediate response from the government but Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat had appealed to international donors on Friday to send tents, tarpaulins and basic food supplies, saying some of the items received were of no use."

Scott Neuman, NPR 

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