KATHMANDU, NEPAL —
Nepal Saturday marked two months since a devastating earthquake struck the country, killing more than 8,800 and leaving half a million houses destroyed or damaged.
At an event organized by Annapurna Publishing, participants gathered at Durbar Square in Kathmandu and released balloons into the sky.
“We are hosting this event with one balloon on hand for each deceased soul. The objective of this program is to hope for peace on behalf of the souls (of the dead) using more than 8,500 balloons," said Annapurna Publications representative Shilu Adhikary.
In Nepal, to purify the souls of the dead, butter lamps and candles are lit in places like temples and monasteries.
"This event is a sort of soul-purification for those who lost their lives in the devastating April 25 earthquake," said one of the many event participants, Govinda Sunar.
The April 25 earthquake and a subsequent one on May 12 killed 8,832 people, injured more than 22,000 and forced tens of thousands into temporary shelters.
Nepal received pledges of aid worth $4.4 billion Thursday for reconstruction at a donor conference.
Handing out funds remains a challenge for Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, who vowed at the conference to show no tolerance for corruption or misuse of foreign aid, in a country with a history of weak oversight.
The government said it will channel aid through a new state body and coordination centres to oversee fund transfers in villages.
Some donors have been reluctant to pledge money, fearing that corruption will divert it from efficient uses.
The government has delegated officials to distribute aid, but there are no regional lawmakers to hold bureaucrats accountable as there have been no local elections since 1997.
Also Saturday, the Nepal's army said the crash of a U.S. military helicopter distributing aid to victims of an earthquake in Nepal in May was caused by bad weather and the rugged terrain of the Himalayan region.
The wreckage of the Marines UH-1Y Huey helicopter, which had gone missing on May 12, was found three days later on a steep slope near dense forest high in the mountains.
Six U.S. Marines, two Nepalese soldiers and five civilians were killed in the crash.
"Because of the terrain and bad weather the helicopter ... collided with hard rock and crashed about 3,413 meters (11,200 feet) above the sea level in Kalinchok," Nepal's army said in a statement late Friday, following a joint investigation with the U.S. military into the accident.
The helicopter was part of a huge international relief and rescue operation for the victims of the earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25.