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Nepal villagers demand help from government

14 May 2015, 09:59

Charikot - Thousands of villagers jammed the streets of this small Himalayan town Thursday, demanding government help after Nepal suffered its second major quake in less than three weeks. And while there have been occasional food handouts here, there was nowhere near enough supplies for all the people who kept arriving.

"We came here with such hopes and such difficulty, but now we're just waiting and waiting," said Navraj Nama, 25, who came to Charikot with his brother and elderly uncle after the second earthquake hit Nepal on Tuesday. He said 90% of their home village, Danda Khorka, had been damaged in the first quake, and about 50 of those buildings had collapsed when the second one hit.

The past three weeks have been misery for Nepal. On April 25, a magnitude-7.8 earthquake killed more than 8 150 people, injured tens of thousands more and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Then, just as the country was beginning to rebuild, a magnitude-7.3 earthquake battered it again, killing at least 91 people and injuring more than 2 300.

A search also continued on Thursday for a US Marine Corps helicopter carrying six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers. It went missing Tuesday while delivering aid in the country's northeast, US officials said.

Normally a placid town of perhaps 10 000 people, Charikot is the administrative centre of the worst-hit district in the Tuesday earthquake, making it the obvious place for residents of the many small surrounding villagers to go for help. By Thursday morning, thousands of additional people were living there, nearly all of them too afraid to sleep indoors.

The Nepal Army had set up a small aid distribution centre, but supplies were limited and the centre was rarely open. So people simply waited at the locked gates, shaking the fence angrily when their frustration got the better of them.

Desperate need

Nama's village, like much of the quake-hit Nepal, was in desperate need of shelter, and the young farmer came to Charikot hoping to get tents or tarpaulins to carry back with him. But none were available.

There was also a shortage of tarps and tents in the Nepalese capital and elsewhere, with some people even using cardboard boxes as temporary shelters.

"We have nowhere to go. This is our home for now. We had just moved back into our rented rooms and again the earthquakes are back," Raj Kumar, a carpenter who was sharing a small tent with two other families, said on Thursday in Kathmandu.

The most recent quake hit hardest in deeply rural parts of the Himalayan foothills, hammering many villages reached only by hiking trails and causing road-blocking landslides.

Also read: Strong quake shakes northeast Japan, no tsunami risk

"Damaged houses were further damaged or destroyed. Houses and schools building spared before were affected ... roads were damaged," Jamie McGoldrick, a top UN official in Nepal, said Wednesday.

Among 14 quake-hit districts, some are barely accessible, and a large part of the affected population could not be reached easily because of damaged roads.

"Some are even difficult to reach by helicopter. We are facing monumental challenges here to support the government in these districts," McGoldrick said.

Missing helicopter

Meanwhile, the US and Nepal militaries had been searching the hills for the missing Marine helicopter.

Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesperson, said Wednesday that the US aerial search had found "nothing of note" that day, and the search was suspended overnight. He said that in addition to US aircraft, the US has redirected some satellites to assist in the search. Officials in Kathmandu said the search was focused on the Sunkhani area, nearly 80km northeast of the capital.

The US Geological Survey said Tuesday's earthquake was the largest aftershock of the April quake. But it was significantly less powerful and occurred deeper in the Earth.

The first quake also drove many people to leave damaged homes, which were empty when the new quake caused more damage and collapses.

On Wednesday, McGoldrick said the UN had revised its donor appeal to call for $423m. The response to the earlier appeal of $415m has been low, with about 15% of the sum received.

- AP


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