Tensions rise in Nepal after “weak” response to deadly quake

Tensions rise in Nepal after “weak” response to deadly quake
People carry a woman as she fainted after performing the last rites of her family members, who died in Saturday's earthquake, along a river in Kathmandu.

KATHMANDU - Nepali officials conceded they had made mistakes in their initial response to a massive earthquake that has killed more than 4,700 people, as survivors stranded in remote villages and towns waited for aid and relief to arrive on Wednesday.

The government has yet to fully assess the devastation wrought by Saturday's 7.9 magnitude quake, unable to reach many mountainous areas despite aid supplies and personnel pouring in from around the world.

Anger and frustration was mounting steadily, with many Nepalis sleeping out in the open under makeshift tents for a fourth night since Nepal'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 told Reuters on Tuesday 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 some 28 million people that sits between India and China.

Early on Wednesday, Nepal's home ministry put the latest death toll at 4,768, with more than 9,600 injured. More than 80 were also killed in India and Tibet.

Hospitals quickly overflowed 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, orthopaedic surgeons and trauma surgeons," Bairagi said.

On Tuesday, the head of the United Nations Development Programme in Nepal told Reuters that Kathmandu had told aid agencies it did not need more foreign rescue teams because its government and military could cope.

Experts from a Polish NGO that has an 87-strong team in Nepal have said the chances of finding people alive in the ruins five days after the quake were "next to zero".

RARE HOPE

International aid has begun arriving in Nepal, but disbursement has been slow, partly because aftershocks have sporadically closed the airport.

In a rare glimmer of hope, a Nepali-French rescue team pulled a 28-year-old man, Rishi Khanal, from a collapsed apartment block in Kathmandu on Tuesday after he had spent around 80 hours trapped in a room with three dead bodies.

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