Nepalis race home bringing aid to quake survivors

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Boarding buses, planes and trains, Nepalese are leaving India for their homeland following the country's devastating earthquake, desperate to help relatives stuck in the horror of the disaster zone.

Carrying food, blankets and medicine, India's anxious Nepalese diaspora is hopeful of crossing the border and rescuing parents and siblings or at least bringing much-needed supplies to badly hit villages.

"My in-laws, cousins and other relatives are suffering," businessman Ram Madhav said as he prepared to board a bus to Kathmandu at the international terminal in New Delhi on Tuesday.

"I want to help them in whatever way I can," the 42-year-old told AFP, carrying several bags loaded with aid and a bucket full of clothes.

India is home to the largest diaspora of Nepalese, up to three million, many of whom work as maids, drivers and construction workers, sending home each month part of their often low pay to help their extended families.

"A lot of Nepalis want to go back home and help their fellow countrymen. We have been flooded with such requests," said Krishna Prasad Dhakal, deputy chief of mission at Nepal's embassy in Delhi.

With demand so high, the Indian government has agreed to the embassy's request to put on extra trains running to the border that it shares with its impoverished Himalayan neighbour, Dhakal told AFP.

Rescuers in Nepal were battling to reach remote communities devastated by Saturday's earthquake that has killed more than 4,300 people, and left tens of thousands more injured and homeless.

The UN is estimating eight million people have been hit by the disaster, with aid pouring into the country to help overwhelmed authorities.

But Nepalese said they are not prepared to wait for aid agencies to help their families and are skeptical its government could cope with the scale of the quake.

"I am carrying bananas, dried fruits and cookies, it's not much but it's enough for 50 people to survive one day," D.R. Sharma said at the bus station, hauling his bags.

"God has given me an opportunity to serve my fellow people and I don't want to let it go to waste," the 52-year-old salon manager said.

- 'No one to help them' -

Nepalese nanny Sukamaya Tamang, whose parents and brothers are stranded in one of the worst-hit districts, said families there had been left to fend for themselves, with no government help reaching them so far.

Tamang's family is stranded in Sindulpalchowk, some 100km from the epicentre of the quake, where homes and roads have been destroyed.

"There are a cluster of nine villages and they have been all flattened out," said Tamang, who managed to speak to her brother over the phone at their village.

Tamang, 25, said the village has been banding together to care for the injured and help to cremate the dead.

"My husband and cousins are leaving by air today (Tuesday) with supplies to see if they can reach our village," she told AFP.

"It makes me shudder to think what my family members must be going through with no one at hand to help them out."

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