Nepal earthquake: No chance of more quake survivor, says Nepal's Home Ministry

A man walks through what is left from Barpak village, Gorkha district, epicentre of the devastating earthquake that hit the country on April 25, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA 
A man walks through what is left from Barpak village, Gorkha district, epicentre of the devastating earthquake that hit the country on April 25, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA 

A week on, focus shifts to reaching far-flung areas where supplies have not been sent

Kathmandu - Nepal ruled out yesterday the possibility of finding more survivors buried in the rubble from a massive earthquake that killed more than 6,700 people and devastated vast swathes of one of Asia's poorest nations.

One week on from Nepal's deadliest quake in over 80 years, at 7.8 magnitude, hopes of detecting more signs of life among the ruins of the capital Kathmandu have all but disappeared and the focus is shifting to reaching survivors in far-flung areas who have yet to receive relief supplies.

"It has already been one week since the disaster," Home Ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal said. "We are trying our best in rescue and relief work but now, I don't think that there is any possibility of finding survivors under the rubble."

As well as updating the death toll to 6,621, Mr Dhakal put the number of injured at 14,023.

While multiple teams of rescuers from more than 20 countries have been using sniffer dogs and heat-seeking equipment to find survivors, no one has been pulled out alive since last Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children's Fund warned of a race against time to avert an outbreak of disease among the 1.7 million youngsters estimated to be living in the worst-hit areas, with monsoon rains just weeks away.

"Hospitals are overflowing, water is scarce, bodies are still buried under the rubble and people are still sleeping in the open," said Dr Rownak Khan, Unicef's deputy representative in Nepal. "This is a perfect breeding ground for diseases."

In Kathmandu, bureaucracy at the airport is holding up vital relief supplies.

United Nations representative Jamie McGoldrick said the government must loosen customs restrictions to deal with the increasing flow of relief material and avoid bottlenecks. Material is piling up at the Kathmandu airport instead of being ferried out to victims.

"They should not be using peacetime customs methodology," he said.

Nepal exempted tarpaulins and tents from import taxes last Friday but Mr Dhakal said all goods coming in from overseas have to be inspected. "This is something we need to do," he said.

Nepali government officials said efforts to step up the pace of the delivery of relief material to remote areas are also frustrated by a shortage of supply trucks and drivers, many of whom have returned to their villages to help their families.

"Our granaries are full and we have ample food stock, but we are not able to transport supplies at a faster pace," said Mr Shrimani Raj Khanal, a manager at the Nepal Food Corp.

Army helicopters have air-dropped instant noodles and biscuits to remote communities but people need rice and other ingredients to cook a proper meal, he said.

Military aircraft and personnel from the United States were to arrive in Kathmandu yesterday to help in the relief operation. One of their tasks will be to deal with the growing piles of aid material.

A Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130 plane carrying supplies landed at Kathmandu airport yesterday. There were also seven medical workers from the Ministry of Health on board the plane.

Singapore has been helping with recovery operations and the provision of medical services in Nepal since the quake hit.

AFP, Reuters