ATTENTION – VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATH
Outside, a 30-year-old woman who had been widowed wailed: “Oh Lord, oh God, why did you take him alone? Take me along with him also.”Authorities also scrambled to provide shelter in the capital, Kathmandu, for thousands of people who spent the night outside in freezing temperatures and patchy rain, too afraid to return to their damaged homes.People milled about in parks and streets strewn with rubble. The 7.9 magnitude quake struck at midday on Saturday at a busy time of year for the tourism-reliant country’s trekking and climbing season, with an estimated 300,000 foreign tourists in the country.The government planned to pitch tents and turn schools and other public buildings into shelters, said Rameshwor Dangal, a home ministry official. It would also re-open roads and send helicopters to rescue people.Nepal’s police put the death toll at 1,896, with about 4,700 injured. At least 400 were killed in the capital, a city of about 1 million people where many homes are old, flimsy and packed close together.Foreign climbers and their Nepalese guides around Mount Everest were caught by the tremors and a huge avalanche that claimed the highest toll of any disaster on the world’s highest mountain.
A first helicopter took off from Kathmandu on Sunday morning to airlift the injured after flights were delayed by cloudy weather, Sherpa said.
Two light helicopters were shuttling injured from base camp to a lower altitude, from where they could be evacuated back to the capital, emergency officials at Kathmandu airport said.
Hospitals across the impoverished nation of 28 million people struggled to cope with its worst quake in 81 years. They expected a fresh influx of patients on Sunday but medical supplies were running low.
Kathmandu’s Bir Hospital had received 300 to 350 patients with serious injuries through Saturday, and most of them died, said paramedic Dinesh Chaudhary. He said the hospital was procuring medicines from shops outside.
People still trapped
The earthquake, centred 50 miles (80 km) east of the second city, Pokhara, was all the more destructive for being shallow.
Rescue operations had still not begun in towns in some remote areas.
Neighbouring India, where 44 people were reported killed in the quake and its aftershocks, sent military aircraft to Nepal with medical equipment and relief teams. It also said it had dispatched 285 members of its National Disaster Response Force.
In Tibet, the death toll climbed to 17, according to a tweet from China’s state news agency, Xinhua.
International aid groups readied staff to go to Nepal to help provide clean water, sanitation and emergency food, while the United States, Britain and Pakistan were among countries providing search-and-rescue experts.
More than 1,000 climbers were on Everest at the start of their season when disaster struck.
Romanian climber Alex Gavan tweeted on Saturday that there had been a “huge earthquake then huge avalanche” at Everest base camp, forcing him to run for his life.
In a later tweet he made a desperate appeal for a helicopter to fly in and evacuate climbers who had been hurt: “Many dead. Much more badly injured. More to die if not heli asap.”
In the Annapurna mountain range, where scores were killed in the nation’s worst trekking accident last year, many hikers were stranded after the quake, according to messages on social media, but no deaths there had been reported.
Nepal, sandwiched between India and China, has had its share of natural disasters. Its worst earthquake in 1934 killed more than 8,500 people.