Still struggling after earthquakes, Nepal runs out of fuel

A line of taxis as drivers wait for fuel at a petrol station in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Oct 1, 2015. The Nepalese are facing an acute crisis of petroleum products and other essential commodities after neighboring India stopped supplies.
A line of taxis as drivers wait for fuel at a petrol station in Kathmandu, Nepal, on Oct 1, 2015. The Nepalese are facing an acute crisis of petroleum products and other essential commodities after neighboring India stopped supplies. PHOTO: EPA

KATHMANDU(Reuters) - Still piecing lives together from the worst earthquakes in 75 years, Nepalis are being tested by another trial - weeks of protests against a new constitution have led to a critical shortage of fuel.

Protesters are blocking up to 4,000 trucks at the border with India, the main supply route into landlocked Nepal, while the road to China is still obstructed by landslides.

The earthquakes in April and May killed almost 9,000 people, mostly in districts close to Kathmandu.

Now, city residents are worrying whether they will be able to return to their villages during the Dashain festival later this month that is the highlight of the religious calendar.

In a teashop in Patan, a city of centuries-old temples a few miles south of Kathmandu that was badly damaged by the quakes, baker Binod said he planned to go home to be with his family.

"It's a three-hour journey by car if the roads are good,"said Binod, who only gave his first name. His house was among those destroyed in the district hardest hit by the April quake. "By walking, I'm not sure how long it will take," he said.

U.N. aid agency the World Food Programme (WFP) said it had enough fuel and food to meet its commitments for about a month. "We have sufficient fuel so that our helicopters will be able to fly sorties and deliver vital supplies for the next three or four weeks. We have enough food stored to distribute for the next month," a WPF spokeman said.

But city residents prepared for further shortages on Thursday (Oct 1 )after the government implemented a ban on petrol sales to private vehicles.

As government talks with opposition parties stalled, traffic at the border with India remained sporadic. "We are positive about these talks, and we are confident that we can address the opinions and concerns of our friends and resolve this problem," said KP Oli, a senior politician tipped to be Nepal's next prime minister.

At the Patan teashop, owner Rabin Upadhyaya stopped serving by 10 a.m. (0415 GMT) to conserve the one gas canister he had left in his shop.

"We had to decide. Most people want tea in the morning - we can't keep serving it all day when things are so short," he said.