Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Quake-Stunned Nepal Still Awaits Food, Tents, and Clean Water

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Quake-Stunned Nepal Still Awaits Food, Tents, and Clean Water

Article excerpt

Four days after a devastating earthquake, tens of thousands of survivors here still urgently need clean water, food, and tents to survive the aftermath.

Nepali officials are not yet aware of the extent of destruction or of the need in many places outside Kathmandu. But even this capital city and its neighboring districts are waiting for supplies amid steady rains that have further hindered recovery efforts.

Many residents are leaving Kathmandu for fear of aftershocks or disease, or because of scalpers' prices for basic necessities. Meanwhile, the United Nations is preparing to build camps for residents whose homes are destroyed or unsafe.

But local sources say foreign aid organizations are bumping into each other and into Nepali recovery teams. Despite their strong efforts, many residents interviewed today have so far seen no aid.

The destruction wrought by Saturday's earthquake, Nepal's biggest since 1934, has claimed more than 4,600 lives, according to the most recent estimates. Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said on Tuesday that the death toll could reach 10,000.

In terms of both information and need, "the big challenge is in remote areas," UN resident coordinator Jamie McGoldrick said Tuesday. He said more supplies are needed "closer to the epicenter of the earthquake," in the Gorkha district northeast of Kathmandu.

Water shortagesNepali officials describe an urgent need of ready- to-eat food, water, and tents in all parts of the poor, mountainous nation of 28 million people.

In Kathmandu, where water scarcity is chronic, some private water suppliers are supplying water through tankers on their own for free.

"There are 700 water tankers in Kathmandu. But now only 100 of them are operating because drivers of the rest have either returned to the villages to take care of their families or are grieving the loss of someone in the family," says Radha Krishna Gumi, the owner of a private water supply company here.

Operators normally charge $25 for about 3,500 gallons of water. But now they are supplying it for free and without having received a government request. "We are doing this out of humanitarian concerns. There is a serious shortage of drinking water in Kathmandu," Mr. Gumi says.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake took a serious toll on Nepali villages, many of which in Gorka are completely destroyed or flattened. Tents are an immediate necessity.

The Sindhupalchowk district that adjoins Gorkha has reported the single highest casualty rate. Thousands of houses in nearly 500 communities and villages are destroyed, according to the district's chief government administrator, Krishna Gyawali.

"The scale of destruction in the district is indescribable," Mr. Gyawali says. "We need tents, clean water, and food to save those who survived."

A helicopter dropped relief goods at the Sindhupalchowk district headquarters Tuesday. …

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