Bad weather hinders Nepal rescue efforts

A large storm has rumbled over the mountainous terrain, leading to cancelled helicopter flights.

Nepalese residents walk past road damage following an earthquake in Kathmandu on 26 April, 2015. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG/ KATHMANDU - Rescue workers trying to reach people who desperately need help in earthquake-ravaged Nepal are facing a myriad of obstacles and the weather is only making things worse.

In the district of Gorkha, where the 7.9 magnitude quake was centred, a large storm has rumbled over the mountainous terrain leading to cancelled helicopter flights.

LISTEN: Update on the quake.

This means fewer airdrops of vital supplies to devastated villages and it has also dashed hopes of rescue for injured people in isolated locations.

More than 5,000 people have died but Nepalese authorities are warning the death toll is likely to be far higher as rescue and recovery operations continue.


Officials have conceded they had made mistakes in their initial response, leaving survivors stranded in remote villages waiting for aid and relief.

Over 200 Nepalis protested outside parliament in the capital Kathmandu, demanding the government increase the number of buses going to the interior hills and improve distribution of aid.

"I haven't been able to contact my family members in the village," said Kayant Panday, one of the protesters, who said he woke up at 4am to get a bus to a badly hit area but was not able to get one. "There is no way I can get information whether they are dead or alive."

The government has yet to fully assess the devastation wrought by the quake, unable to reach many mountainous areas despite aid supplies and personnel pouring in from around the world.

Anger and frustration are mounting, with many Nepalis sleeping out in the open under makeshift tents for a fourth night since the country's worst quake in more than 80 years.

"This is a disaster on an unprecedented scale. There have been some weaknesses in managing the relief operation," Nepal's Communication Minister Minendra Rijal said late on Tuesday.

"We will improve this from Wednesday."

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

That would surpass the 10,000 who died in a 1934 earthquake, the last disaster on this scale to hit the Himalayan nation of 28 million people located between India and China.

WATCH: Mother freed after being trapped for 36 hours.


Rescue helicopters have been unable to land in some remote mountainous areas. Shambhu Khatri, a technician on board one of the helicopters, said entire hillsides had collapsed in parts of the worst-hit Gorkha district, burying settlements, and access was almost impossible.

A health official in Laprak, a village in the district best known as the home of Gurkha soldiers, estimated that 1,600 of the 1,700 houses in the village had been razed.

An official from Nepal's home ministry said the number of confirmed deaths had risen to 5,006. Almost 10,000 were injured in Nepal, and more than 80 were also killed in India and Tibet.

In Kathmandu and other cities, hospitals quickly overflowed with injured soon after the quake, with many being treated out in the open or not at all.

Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi appealed for specialist doctors from overseas, as well as for search-and-rescue teams despite earlier suggestions from officials that Nepal did not need more such assistance.

"Our top priority is for relief and rescue teams. We need neurologists, orthopaedic surgeons and trauma surgeons," Bairagi said. Experts from a Polish NGO that has an 87-strong team in Nepal have said the chances of finding people alive in the ruins five days after the quake were "next to zero".