Death toll now 4,349, could reach 10,000; govt on 'war footing', says PM

KATHMANDU (REUTERS/THE KATHMANDU POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The death toll in Nepal's earthquake could reach 10,000, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told Reuters on Tuesday, ordering intensified rescue efforts and appealing for foreign supplies of tents and medicines, as the death toll hit 4,349.

"The government is doing all it can for rescue and relief on a war footing," Mr Koirala said in an interview. "It is a challenge and a very difficult hour for Nepal."

A Home Ministry official put the latest death toll at 4,349. If the death toll does reach 10,000, that would be even higher than the 8,500 killed in a massive 1934 quake, the Himalayan nation’s worst disaster to date.

Mr Koirala was abroad when the 7.8-magnitude quake struck on Saturday. He returned on Sunday. He has issued orders to his government to improve coordination of the relief effort and will address the nation later on Tuesday, an aide said.Appealing for foreign assistance, Mr Koirala said Nepal needed tents and medicines. Many people are sleeping out of doors because their homes have been destroyed or may not withstand the dozens of aftershocks that have hit the country, he said.

“The government needs tents, much medicine. People are sleeping in fields and rains,” he added. “There are more than 7,000 people injured. Their treatment and rehabilitation is going to be a big challenge.”

On Monday, Mr Koirala had admitted that rescue, relief and search operations have not been effective, and urged political parties to work together in this national crisis.

Post-quake management is challenging, he said in an all-party meeting organised on Monday by Constituent Assembly Chairman Subas Nembang.

The government is receiving requests from across the country for help, he said. It had been unable to extend rescue efforts to several places due to a crunch of logistics and experts.

The Prime Minister added that the government was serious and sensitive about relief distribution and rehabilitation of the affected people.

The government was preparing to send tents, water, medicine, health workers and volunteers to the affected areas.

Mr Koirala also appealed to people to donate blood.