Dying in slow motion: The greater horror of Nepal earthquake is now underway

As rescuers struggle to work through the impossibly large tracts of devastation, the plight of those who survived the quake is becoming more and more desperate.

FP Staff April 30, 2015 11:27:27 IST
Dying in slow motion: The greater horror of Nepal earthquake is now underway

The death toll from the Nepal earthquake keeps rising steadily as rescuers pull more and more bodies out of the rubble of collapsed buildings.

But as the magnitude of the quake and the extent of damage becomes clearer both inside and outside the capital city of Kathmandu, it seems that those who were instantly killed were the luckier ones. As rescuers struggle to work through the impossibly large tracts of devastation, the plight of those who survived the quake is becoming more and more desperate.

Outside Kathmandu, villages are completely cut off, leaving rescuers unable to come in and carry out relief work.

Dying in slow motion The greater horror of Nepal earthquake is now underway

Reuters

The Times of India reports on the plight of a village in Barpak outside Kathmandu that have been completely cut off, and rescuers have no way of reaching.

"We don't even know how many are dead in the village or how many are severely injured. Some may still be trapped under the rubble but, perhaps, alive. But we are in no position to save them. They'll die waiting for help. It's one of the saddest feelings when a rescue worker can't go through," Nepal Army Captain Naresh Khadka, who is guiding the IAF rescue operation in Barpak was quoted as saying in the report.

In some mountainous areas, the government has struggled to deliver aid. Rescue helicopters have had problems landing at some sites.

Shambhu Khatri, a technician on board one of the helicopters, told Reuters that entire hillsides had collapsed in parts of the Gorkha district, burying settlements, and access was almost impossible.

The latest figures cited in a UN release say 70,000 homes were destroyed and 530,000 were damaged by the quakes and aftershocks. This figure is likely to be revised many more times.

CBC news said the UN World Food Program has warned that it will take time for food and other supplies to reach more remote communities that have been cut off by landslides.

"More helicopters, more personnel and certainly more relief supplies, including medical teams, shelter, tents, water and sanitation and food, are obviously needed," the program's Geoff Pinnock, who was coordinating the flights, told the media agency. But he added that given the current situation and the extent of the destruction, relief efforts could take months.

Time unfortunately, that many of these survivors do not have. And this is not even the only problem survivors are facing.

Apart from those who are still trapped amidst the rubble, people are also starving, susceptible to disease and are finding it hard to get medical attention. Many of the injured are being treated on the streets, and getting basic medical supplies and health care workers to every location is critical.

The UN has said that diarrhea is already becoming an issue in Kathmandu Valley, resulting directly from the outside conditions that people are being forced to sleep in due to fear of aftershocks.

Speaking to Yahoo, Gerard Finnigan, Regional Health Advisor for Asia-Pacific at World Vision said, "Diarrhea is the second-leading cause of death for all children under five. The most important thing to do when helping a child with diarrhea is rehydrating them. But how do you do that when there is little to no safe water?”

Measles and rubella are also concerns. " “If your child is infected with measles, I can’t do anything for them as a health professional. There is no drug to kill the virus; it is a lottery as to whether they survive or not. So what we know from 100 years of evidence in dealing with children who have contracted measles is that, if measles gets into a community, particularly a community that is highly vulnerable after a disaster, then it will kill children. Without any doubt" Finnigan told Yahoo.

Children are in fact, the hardest hit among survivors. Another Times of India report says that especially in vilages outside Nepal, "With the earthquake striking during daytime, most adults in these villages were out working in the fields, leaving children at home. As houses collapsed like packs of cards, parents escaped without a scratch but their children either died or were badly injured.

And as the government struggles to cope, public patience is running out.

Nepali villagers blocked trucks carrying supplies for earthquake victims on Wednesday, demanding the government do more to help after last week's disaster left more than 5,200 people dead and tens of thousands homeless and short of food and water.

In Kathmandu, about 200 people protested outside parliament, asking for more buses to go to their homes in remote parts of the Himalayan nation and to hasten the distribution of aid that has flooded into the country but been slow to reach those in need.

In Bhaktapur, one of the worst affected areas, a heart rending first person account says that even soldiers trying to help with relief efforts are hungry, surviving on a diet of noodles and water.

"An Army personnel asked us, ‘We don’t know what lies 50 m ahead of us. Can you zoom from your camera and tell us?’ pointing towards our drone – and this told us how rescue efforts had proceeded in this part of town", the report said.

The government is struggling to fully assess the devastation.

"This is a disaster on an unprecedented scale. There have been some weaknesses in managing the relief operation," Nepal's Communication Minister Minendra Rijal said late on Tuesday.

Protests also greeted Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala in relief camps as anger spilled over to the streets with people seizing food and water supplies.

Teams are moving in and the world is rushing to help.  But for many of Nepal's earthquake victims, it will all be much too late.

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