NEW DELHI - In Nepal, while rescue and relief efforts are picking up pace, aid groups are also encountering steep problems in distributing aid in the devastated country in the high Himalayas.
The United Nations said the disaster has affected 8 million people in Nepal, with 1.4 million in need of food aid.
Officials said Tuesday the death toll had climbed to more than 4,300 people with about 8,000 others injured. They said those numbers could go higher as workers clear away more rubble and access more remote areas.
From across the world, relief material and rescue teams have lined up to help tens of thousands of Nepalese in desperate need of food, shelter and medical help.
Aid not reaching people
But much of it has yet to reach those in need, Krishna Prasad Chalisey, head of communications at the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kathmandu, told VOA.
“They are coming up with the manpower and the relief items. These items are in the airport," Chalisey said. "But if you look at the ground, it appears that it has not reached the people. ... We need to improve the supply system and the coordination, because there are many actors, there is lots of relief supplies, but still the people they are demanding, in many public open places, they are devoid of drinking water and tent.”
The entry point for Nepal is Kathmandu. However, its small airport is struggling, unable to cope with the rush of people, equipment and materials coming in or with foreign nationals clamoring to leave the shattered country.
There are chaotic crowds outside the airport. Those trying to leave Nepal include thousands of Indians.
Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said the Kathmandu airport faces severe constraints and limitations.
“The ground reality or the air reality is actually very tough … getting landing slots, unloading, turning flights around, all of that has been very difficult because the airport is under enormous pressure," Jaishankar said.
Authorities in New Delhi said efforts are under way to open more road links from the border with India, which will facilitate the transportation of heavy equipment as well as help to evacuate more people by bus.
Many parts of Nepal’s capital city resemble a refugee camp. Homeless people are exhausted and frightened. Prayer ceremonies were held Tuesday for those who have died and for those struggling to cope with their losses.
ICRC’s Chalisey said people are in desperate need of a helping hand, and she hopes the situation will soon improve.
“The first two days ... communities ... themselves had some capacity, the people they mobilized all their sources, they helped each other, so it was OK, but now that capacity has also exhausted," she said.
The rescue effort is slowly fanning out from Kathmandu, which has been the main focus so far. Indian army helicopters dropped relief material in Pokhara, Nepal’s second largest town. The epicenter of the killer quake lies between Kathmandu and Pokhara.
But accessing vast remote areas along mountain slopes still poses a challenge. Rescuers who have reached some of these villages have described scenes of hardship.
A team of power experts from India worked Tuesday to help Nepalese authorities restore electricity as large parts of the country are still without power.
Indian Defense Secretary R.K. Mathur said the Indian military, which is operating in Nepal, hopes to tap ex-Nepalese soldiers who have served in its ranks to widen the relief effort. The Indian army has a contingent of Nepalese soldiers called the Gurkhas.