Only 13 survivors found in international search and rescue efforts

International search and rescue teams have found only 13 people alive, United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) advisor Arjun Katoch said on Wednesday.

Mr Katoch said the Nepali government is trying to tell the teams that the 96-hour window for successful search-and-rescue is closing soon, and that they should start focusing on finding and extricating dead bodies.

He was speaking at a briefing which the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) attended at the Multi-national Military Coordination Centre in the central part of Nepal's capital Kathmandu.

Also present were Mr Pradip Koirala, the Nepali Under-Secretary of Home Affairs and Mr Arjan Stam, leader of the Dutch Urban Search and Rescue Team.

The shift in focus is also a signal to teams that they should leave if they do not have the capabilities that suit "post-life rescue recovery".

Mr Katoch said teams that do not have the capacity to do this should wind down and leave, as the airport was overwhelmed.

Singapore has this capacity. Out of the 60 SCDF officers, more than half are from the Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team that specialises in such work.

As the country struggles to cope with the massive scale of the destruction, Nepali authorities have appealed for relief items such as water purifiers, blankets, dry food, tarpaulins and tents.

The Nepali government also acknowledged that water shortage is a problem and has urged shops to reopen, saying they do not expect any more buildings to collapse.

yanliang@sph.com.sg