KATHMANDU: The death toll from the devastating earthquake in Nepal four days ago rose past 5,000 on Wednesday as officials conceded they had made mistakes in their initial response, leaving survivors stranded in remote villages waiting for aid and relief.
The government has yet to fully assess the devastation wrought by Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude quake, unable to reach many mountainous areas despite aid supplies and personnel pouring in from around the world.
Anger and frustration were mounting steadily, with many Nepalis sleeping out in the open under makeshift tents for a fourth night since the country’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
“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.
“We will improve this from Wednesday.”
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has told Reuters the death toll could reach 10,000, with information on casualties and damage from far-flung villages and towns yet to come in.
That would surpass the 8,500 who died in a 1934 earthquake, the last disaster on this scale to hit the Himalayan nation of 28 million people that sits between India and China.
Rescue helicopters have been unable to land in remote mountainous areas.
Shambhu Khatri, a technician on board one of the helicopters, said entire hillsides had collapsed in parts of the worst-hit Gorkha district, burying settlements, and access was impossible.
“The big challenge is to find a place to land,” he said.
A health official in Laprak, a village in the district best known as the home of Gurkha soldiers, estimated that 1,600 of the 1,700 houses in the village had been razed.
An official from Nepal’s home ministry said the number of confirmed deaths had risen to 5,006. Almost 10,000 were injured in Nepal, and more than 80 were also killed in India and Tibet.
In the capital Kathmandu and other cities, hospitals quickly over flowed with injured soon after the quake, with many being treated out in the open or not at all.
Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi appealed for specialist doctors from overseas, as well as for search-and-rescue teams despite earlier suggestions from officials that Nepal did not need such assistance.
“Our top priority is for relief and rescue teams. We need neurologists, orthopedic surgeons and trauma surgeons,” Bairagi said.