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Nepal earthquake: Death toll surpasses 4,000; aid flows in slowly (update)

A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Omar Havana/Getty Images
A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Relief materials for earthquake victims are loaded on to a helicopter 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.
Altaf Qadri/AP
A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Local people help with rescue work at the site of a building that collapsed after an earthquake in Kathmandu, April 25, 2015.
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Nepalese residents rest as they gather on a pavement in Kathmandu on April 26, 2015, a day after an earthquake hit.
PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
A man climbs on top of debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Omar Havana/Getty Images
A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Nepalese residents walk beside buildings severely damaged by an earthquake on Kathmandu on April 26, 2015.
PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Relatives of a victim of the earthquake that hit Nepal yesterday cry while walking to the cremation site on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Omar Havana/Getty Images
A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Nepalese residents walks past road damage following an earthquake in Kathmandu on April 26, 2015. International aid groups and governments intensified efforts to get rescuers and supplies into earthquake-hit Nepal on April 26, 2015, but severed communications and landslides in the Himalayan nation posed formidable challenges to the relief effort.
PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images
A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
An injured person is carried by rescue members to be airlifted by rescue helicopter at Everest Base Camp a day after an avalanche triggered by an earthquake devastated the camp.
ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images
A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Residents line up for food in an evacuation area set up by the authorities in Tundhikel park on April 27, 2015 in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Omar Havana/Getty Images
A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
A man sits next to a Nepalese child injured in an earthquake, at a hospital in Pokhara on April 27, 2015.
SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images
A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Pakistani residents hold candles during a vigil for the victims of the 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.
SS MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images


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. In much of the countryside, it was worse, though how much worse was only beginning to become apparent. The official overall death toll soared past 4,000, even without a full accounting from vulnerable mountain villages that rescue workers were still struggling to reach two days after the disaster.

Article: How you can help Nepal’s earthquake victims.

Updates

Update 1:16 p.m.:  Nepal death toll rises to 4,010; more than 7,100 injured 

Nepal's Home Ministry said the country's death toll had risen to 4,010. Another 61 were killed in neighboring India, and China's official Xinhua News Agency reported 25 dead in Tibet.

At least 18 of the dead were killed at Mount Everest as the quake unleashed an avalanche that buried part of the base camp packed with foreign climbers preparing to make their summit attempts.

At least 7,180 people were injured in the quake, police said. Tens of thousands are estimated to be left homeless.

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Update 12:50 p.m.: At least 4 Americans have died

The State Department said at least four Americans have died in Nepal's earthquake.

Spokesman Jeff Rathke said all of the U.S. citizens were killed at the Mt. Everest base camp. He identified two as Thomas Ely Taplin and Vinh B. Truong.

The other two haven't been named yet, either because consular officials haven't confirmed their identities or next of kin haven't been notified.

— AP

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Update 10:40 a.m.: Santa Monica couple in Nepal report they're safe

A Santa Monica couple visiting Nepal say they're safe after a crushing earthquake struck the nation.

Friends of 58-year-old A. Michelle Page and 65-year-old Daniel Adams filed a missing persons report with U.S. officials after failing to connect with them over the weekend.

But on Monday the Santa Monica couple said on their Facebook page that they are safe.

Michelle Page wrote, "Thanks for thinking of us, but now is the time to worry about Nepal."

Friends of the couple told the Los Angeles Times that Page visits Nepal twice a year to commission local artists to paint custom "Beware of Dog" signs that adorn most Nepalese homes. She sells them to American pet lovers.

— AP

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Update 10 a.m.: Aid begins flowing in, but many without food and shelter

Udav Prashad Timalsina, the top official for the Gorkha district, where Saturday's magnitude-7.8 quake was centered, said he was in desperate need of help.

"There are people who are not getting food and shelter. I've had reports of villages where 70 percent of the houses have been destroyed," he said.

Aid group World Vision said its staff members were able to reach Gorkha, but gathering information from the villages remained a challenge. Even when roads are clear, the group said, some remote areas can be three days' walk from Gorkha's main disaster center.

RELATED: How you can help Nepal’s earthquake victims 

Some roads and trails have been blocked by landslides, the group said in an email to The Associated Press. "In those villages that have been reached, the immediate needs are great including the need for search and rescue, food items, blankets and tarps, and medical treatment."

Timalsina said 223 people had been confirmed dead in Gorkha district but he presumed "the number would go up because there are thousands who are injured." He said his district had not received enough help from the central government, but Jagdish Pokhrel, the clearly exhausted army spokesman, said nearly the entire 100,000-soldier army was involved in rescue operations.

"We have 90 percent of the army out there working on search and rescue," he said. "We are focusing our efforts on that, on saving lives."

Saturday's earthquake spread horror from Kathmandu to small villages and to the slopes of Mount Everest, triggering an avalanche that buried part of the base camp packed with foreign climbers preparing to make their summit attempts.

Aid is coming from more than a dozen countries and many charities, but Lila Mani Poudyal, the government's chief secretary and the rescue coordinator, said Nepal needed more.

He said the recovery was also being slowed because many workers — water tanker drivers, electricity company employees and laborers needed to clear debris — "are all gone to their families and staying with them, refusing to work."

"We are appealing for tents, dry goods, blankets, mattresses, and 80 different medicines that the health department is seeking that we desperately need now," Poudyal told reporters. "We don't have the helicopters that we need or the expertise to rescue the people trapped."

As people are pulled from the wreckage, he noted, even more help is needed.

"Now we especially need orthopedic (doctors), nerve specialists, anaesthetists, surgeons and paramedics," he said. "We are appealing to foreign governments to send these specialized and smart teams."

About 7,180 people were injured in the quake, police said. Poudyal estimated that tens of thousands of people had been left homeless. "We have been under severe stress and pressure, and have not been able to reach the people who need help on time," he said.

The arrival of relief flights has caused major backups at Kathmandu's small airport.

Four Indian air force aircraft carrying aid supplies and rescue personnel were forced to return to New Delhi on Monday because of airport congestion, Indian defense ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said. India planned to resend the planes later Monday night when the situation was expected to have eased.

Nepal police said on their Facebook page that the country's death toll had risen to 3,904 people. That does not include the 18 people killed in the avalanche, which were counted by the mountaineering association. Another 61 people were killed in neighboring India, and China's official Xinhua News Agency reported 25 people dead in Tibet.

Well over 1,000 of the victims were in Kathmandu, the capital, where an eerie calm prevailed Monday.

Tens of thousands of families slept outdoors for a second night, fearful of aftershocks that have not ceased. Camped in parks, open squares and a golf course, they cuddled children or pets against chilly Himalayan nighttime temperatures.

They woke to the sound of dogs yelping and jackhammers. As the dawn light crawled across toppled building sites, volunteers and rescue workers carefully shifted broken concrete slabs and crumbled bricks mixed together with humble household items: pots and pans; a purple notebook decorated with butterflies; a framed poster of a bodybuilder; so many shoes.

"It's overwhelming. It's too much to think about," said 55-year-old Bijay Nakarmi, mourning his parents, whose bodies recovered from the rubble of what once was a three-story building.

He could tell how they died from their injuries. His mother was electrocuted by a live wire on the roof top. His father was cut down by falling beams on the staircase.

He had last seen them a few days earlier — on Nepal's Mothers' Day — for a cheerful family meal.

"I have their bodies by the river. They are resting until relatives can come to the funeral," Nakarmi said as workers continued searching for another five people buried underneath the wreckage.

Kathmandu district chief administrator Ek Narayan Aryal said tents and water were being handed out Monday at 10 locations in Kathmandu, but that aftershocks were leaving everyone jittery. The largest, on Sunday, was magnitude 6.7.

"There have been nearly 100 earthquakes and aftershocks, which is making rescue work difficult. Even the rescuers are scared and running because of them," he said.

"We don't feel safe at all. There have been so many aftershocks. It doesn't stop," said Rajendra Dhungana, 34, who spent Sunday with his niece's family for her cremation at the Pashuputi Nath Temple.

Acrid, white smoke rose above the Hindu temple, Nepal's most revered. "I've watched hundreds of bodies burn," Dhungana said.

The capital city is largely a collection of small, poorly constructed brick apartment buildings. The earthquake destroyed swaths of the oldest neighborhoods, but many were surprised by how few modern structures collapsed in the quake.

On Monday morning, some pharmacies and shops for basic provisions opened while bakeries began offering fresh bread. Huge lines of people desperate to secure fuel lined up outside gasoline pumps, though prices were the same as they were before the earthquake struck.

With power lines down, spotty phone connections and almost no Internet connectivity, residents were particularly anxious to buy morning newspapers.

Pierre-Anne Dube, a 31-year-old from Canada, has been sleeping on the sidewalk outside a hotel. She said she's gone from the best experience of her life, a trek to Everest base camp, to the worst, enduring the earthquake and its aftermath.

"We can't reach the embassy. We want to leave. We are scared. There is no food. We haven't eaten a meal since the earthquake and we don't have any news about what's going on," she said.

The earthquake was the worst to hit the South Asian nation in more than 80 years. It and was strong enough to be felt all across parts of India, Bangladesh, China's region of Tibet and Pakistan. Nepal's worst recorded earthquake in 1934 measured 8.0 and all but destroyed the cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan.

The quake has put a huge strain on the resources of this impoverished country best known for Everest, the highest mountain in the world. The economy of Nepal, a nation of 27.8 million people, relies heavily on tourism, principally trekking and Himalayan mountain climbing.

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