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Crowds in Kathmandu Decry Quake Response, Clamor to Leave

  • VOA News

The United Nations said Wednesday that it was beginning to distribute food and medicine in the area near the epicenter of Saturday's earthquake in Nepal, where the death toll was continuing to rise.

The World Food Program's efforts around Gorkha came as Nepalese officials pledged that Wednesday would bring improvements in the government's response for those in need of food, water and shelter.

Many people, however, remained frustrated by what they said was a slow response by the government. Thousands gathered in the capital, Kathmandu, looking to board buses to leave the city and reach their families in outlying areas.

The frustration boiled over in a protest in the capital, with about 200 people facing off with police and blocking traffic.

The protest was comparatively small, and no demonstrators were detained. But it reflected growing anger over bottlenecks that delayed much-needed relief four days after the powerful earthquake, which left more than 5,000 people dead, twice that many injured and tens of thousands homeless.

VOA's Steve Herman, who is in Sankhu, east of Kathmandu, said a police colonel told him that he empathized with the frustration being expressed by locals complaining about the slowness of aid delivery. Herman added that Nepal's government, "with its very limited resources in the best of times, was doing its utmost to help the people here."

Meanwhile, search-and-rescue workers continued picking through rubble caused by the magnitude-7.8 quake. Late Tuesday, a French team pulled a man from his collapsed home in Kathmandu, where he had been trapped for more than 80 hours.

The U.N. estimated the earthquake has affected 8 million people — more than a quarter of the country's population — with 1.4 million in need of food.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos is due to travel to Nepal on Thursday to assess aid operations.

The International Committee of the Red Cross created a website for friends and family to report missing loved ones, or search for those who have checked in.

Also, Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala pledged in a televised address Tuesday to rebuild historically, religiously and archaeologically significant structures and declared three days of mourning for the victims of the earthquake.