Tens of thousands desperate for help in quake-hit Nepal

Tens of thousands desperate for help in quake-hit Nepal

KATHMANDU - Tens of thousands of frightened Nepalese huddled in tent cities Monday, desperate for help after a quake that killed more than 3,500 people, as international rescue teams with sniffer dogs raced to find survivors buried in the rubble.

Teams equipped with heavy cutting gear and relief supplies were landing round the clock at the nation's only international airport, on the outskirts of Kathmandu which has been devastated by Saturday's 7.8 magnitude quake.

Officials say more than 3,500 people are now known to have died, including 3,432 in Nepal -- making it the quake-prone Himalayan nation's deadliest disaster in more than 80 years.

More than 90 people have been killed in neighbouring India and China while a further 6,509 people were injured in Nepal.

Families, the sick and elderly packed into parks and other open spaces in Kathmandu after losing their houses, with powerful aftershocks making others too terrified to return home.

"This is a nightmare, why don't these aftershocks stop?" asked 70-year-old Sanu Ranjitkar, clutching her dog and with an oxygen mask strapped to her face as she sat under a tarpaulin.

With just sheets of plastic to protect them from the cold and rain, many said they were desperate for aid and information on what to do next.

"There is just too much fear and confusion," said Bijay Sreshth, listening to a radio in the hope of hearing a message from the government.

"We don't know what to do next or for how much longer we are here," said Sreshth, who fled to a park with his three children, wife and mother when the quake hit.

Lengthy queues formed outside petrol stations while supermarkets were seeing a run on staples such as rice and cooking oil.

A government official said tonnes of clean water and other essential supplies were needed for the survivors as well as stepped-up search and rescue efforts outside the capital.

"We need more helicopters for our rescue operations in rural areas," home minister spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal told AFP.

"We also need supplies of essential goods such as food and clean water to provide relief for survivors."

Rescue on Everest 

The quake triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest which buried part of base camp in a cascade of snow and rock, killing at least 18 people on the world's highest mountain.

Rescue helicopters on Monday began airlifting climbers from higher altitudes on the mountain where they were stranded above crevasses and icefalls, after evacuating scores of seriously injured from base camp the day before.

Hundreds of mountaineers had gathered at Everest at the start of the annual climbing season, and the real scale of the disaster there has been impossible to evaluate with communications all but cut off.

"We have deployed three helicopters today to bring climbers down from camp one and two. They are safe but we need to bring them down because part of the route is damaged," tourism department head Tulsi Gautam said.

"It is possible that climbing might not continue this year. However, there has been no official decision."

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