Nepal quake victims still stranded, PM says toll could be 10,000


People stranded in remote villages and towns across Nepal were still waiting for aid and relief to arrive on Tuesday, four days after a devastating earthquake destroyed buildings and roads and killed more than 4,600 people.

The government has yet to assess the full scale of the damage wrought by Saturday's 7.9 magnitude quake, unable to reach many mountainous areas despite aid supplies and personnel pouring in from around the world.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told Reuters the death toll could reach 10,000, as information of damage from far-flung villages and towns has yet to come in.

That would surpass the 8,500 who died in a 1934 earthquake, the last disaster on this scale to hit the Himalayan nation.

“The government is doing all it can for rescue and relief on a war footing,” Koirala said. “It is a challenge and a very difficult hour for Nepal.”

In Jharibar, a village in the hilly Gorkha district of Nepal close to the quake's epicenter, Sunthalia dug for hours in the rubble of her collapsed home on Saturday to recover the bodies of two of her children, a 10-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son.

Another son aged four miraculously survived.

HUNDREDS KILLED IN LANDSLIDES

In Barpak, further north, rescue helicopters were unable to find a place to land. On Tuesday, soldiers had started to make their way overland, first by bus, then by foot.

Army helicopters also circled over Laprak, another village in the district best known as the home of Gurkha soldiers.

A local health official estimated that 1,600 of the 1,700 houses there had been razed. Helicopters dropped food packets in the hope that survivors could gather them up.

In Sindhupalchowk, about 3.5 hours by road northeast of Kathmandu, the earthquake was followed by landslides, killing 1,182 people and seriously injuring 376. A local official said he feared many more were trapped and more aid was needed.

“There are hundreds of houses where our people have not been able to reach yet,” said Krishna Pokharel, the district administrator. “There is a shortage of fuel, the weather is bad and there is not enough help coming in from Kathmandu.”

International aid has begun arriving in Nepal, but disbursement has been slow, partly because aftershocks have sporadically closed the airport.

According to the home (interior) ministry, the confirmed death toll stands at 4,682, with more than 9,240 injured.

The United Nations said 8 million people were affected by the quake and that 1.4 million people were in need of food.

Nepal's most deadly quake in 81 years also triggered a huge avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least 18 climbers and guides, including four foreigners, the worst single disaster on the world's highest peak.

All the climbers who had been stranded at camps high up on Everest had been flown by helicopters to safety, mountaineers reported on Tuesday.

Up to 250 people were missing after an avalanche hit a village on Tuesday in Rasuwa district, a popular trekking area to the north of Kathmandu, district governor Uddhav Bhattarai said.

FRUIT VENDORS RETURN TO STREETS

A series of aftershocks, severe damage from the quake, creaking infrastructure and a lack of funds have complicated rescue efforts in the poor country of 28 million people sandwiched between India and China.

In Kathmandu, youths and relatives of victims were digging into the ruins of destroyed buildings and landmarks.

“Waiting for help is more torturous than doing this ourselves,” said Pradip Subba, searching for the bodies of his brother and sister-in-law in the debris of Kathmandu's historic Dharahara tower.

The 19th century tower collapsed on Saturday as weekend sightseers clambered up its spiral stairs. Scores of people were killed when it crumpled.

Elsewhere in the capital's ancient Durbar Square, groups of young men cleared rubble from around an ancient temple, using pickaxes, shovels and their hands. Several policemen stood by, watching.

Heavy rain late on Tuesday slowed the rescue work.

In the capital, as elsewhere, thousands have been sleeping on pavements, roads and in parks, many under makeshift tents.

Hospitals are full to overflowing, while water, food and power are scarce.

There were some signs of normality returning on Tuesday, with fruit vendors setting up stalls on major roads and public buses back in operation.

Officials acknowledged that they were overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.

“The big challenge is relief,” said Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudel, Nepal's top bureaucrat. “We are really desperate for more foreign expertise to pull through this crisis.”

India and China, which have used aid and investment to court Kathmandu for years, were among the first contributors to the international effort to support Nepal's stretched resources.

Nepal: How you can help


Jews in Israel and abroad are responding to the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25 —resulting in the death of more than 4,000 Nepalese people — through action and financial campaigns.

“The people of Nepal are in desperate need right now,” American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) spokesperson Michael Geller said in a phone interview from New York.

The organization (jdc.org) has set up a Nepal Earthquake Relief fund that will provide urgent assistance, with a focus on medical relief and providing aid supplies. JDC is also helping the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) with the setting up of an Israeli field hospital in the region, Geller said.

“A lot is happening,” he said. “JDC is partnering with the IDF field hospital, as we have done since the [2010] quake in Haiti. And we are providing them with equipment, such as neonatal incubators, and also partnering with Tevel b’Tzedek, which is an [Israeli] organization operating on the ground, and also with UNICEF.”

Geller was unable to provide an up-to-date total of JDC’s fundraising efforts thus far.

Another organization, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is collecting tax-deductible donations for the Nepalese via its Earthquake Emergency Relief Fund (ajws.org). AJWS representatives were not immediately available for comment.

In addition, Chabad has a full time operation in Kathmandu, and the organization is raising money for the relief effort, working with organizations such as JDC, on the ground. To donate, visit Chabad.org/Nepal.

 Jay Sanderson, CEO and president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, a partner organization of the JDC, expressed empathy for the victims of the disaster, saying Angelenos know the consequences of earthquakes all too well.

“Living in Los Angeles we understand earthquakes are something you can’t predict, you can’t control,” he said. “It’s horrible.”

While Federation is not participating in this particular relief effort — Sanderson said the organization has other responsibilities at this time — the Federation leader recommended that people donate to either JDC or IsraAID (israaid.co.il), an Israeli-based agency that provides disaster relief .

“We have so many hot spots in the Jewish world that we have to focus on that we’re recommending people make gifts to other organizations,” he said. “We’re not conducting any kind of campaign. … We’re recommending if people want to make gifts through a Jewish lens, to [give to] either IsraAID or the JDC.”

IsraAID, the IDF, Tevel b’Tzedek, and Magen David Adom, Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross, are among the Israeli-based organizations that are involved with the Jewish State’s wide-ranging relief effort in Nepal. Their work includes dispatching search-and-rescue teams to aid Israelis tourists of the region and to rescue premature babies of Nepalese surrogate mothers who are connected with Israeli adopting couples. (Israel has laws restricting its gay couples from adopting from Israeli surrogate mothers, leading some to look abroad — to places like Nepal — for babies.

Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, was among the hardest hit areas of the earthquake. Trekkers at Mount Everest were also affected, as the earthquake triggered an avalanche. Meanwhile, the region has had many aftershocks in the aftermath of the earthquake, prompting Sanderson to describe what’s happening as a great humanitarian crisis.

“There are so many people living out[side] … not even willing to live in any kind of structure because they’re afraid of aftershocks,” he said. “I think it’s a terrible crisis, affecting tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands who live in that country.”

Two Israelis killed in Nepal bus accident


Two Israelis were killed and at least three wounded in a tourist bus accident Friday in Nepal.

The bus drove off a mountainside 20 miles north of Kathmandu Friday morning, killing at least 11 people, including Israelis Shira Dabbush, 30, and Omer Shemesh, 22, the Times of Israel reported.

Citing Israeli and Nepalese media reports, the Times of Israel said between three and six more Israelis and at least 48 people, most of them tourists, were wounded in the crash

The bus, which was traveling from Katmandu to the Langtana National Park, plunged at least 50 meters down the mountainside.

The accident comes less than two weeks after four Israeli climbers (and 39 others) in Nepal were killed in an avalanche there.

The Walla news site reported that the two Israelis killed had initially planned to travel to the region where the avalanche occurred, but changed their plans in its aftermath.

Iranian national accused of planning attack on Israeli embassy in Nepal


Security at the Israeli Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal, detained an Iranian man believed to be planning a terror attack on the embassy and on Israeli visitors.

The man, caught scouting the building, was discovered to have a fake Israeli passport, which he acquired in Kuala Lumpur sometime after March 31 and used to enter Nepal, according to The Himalayan.

The Iranian national, identified as Mohsin Khosravian,  was arrested on April 13 after Israeli security personnel turned him over to Nepalese police and he remains in police custody, according to the news website. 

Nepal Police's Central Bureau of Investigation and Special Bureau are investigating his “frequent and suspicious visits” to the Israeli Embassy area, The Himalayan reported. He has been charged under the Public Offense Act.

Khosravian has been living in Bangkok since 2004 and has been married to a Thai woman for five years.

Israel has accused Iran of being involved in coordinated attacks on Israeli missions in New Delhi, India and Tbilisi, Georgia on Feb. 13, 2012.

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