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Tuesday, April 28, 2015, 23:20

Quake toll could reach 10,000: Nepal's PM

By Agencies

 Quake toll could reach 10,000: Nepal's PM
In this April 27, 2015 photo, the arm of a body dug out of the collapsed Sitapyla church rests outside a blanket in Kathmandu, Nepal. (AP Photo / Wally Santana)

KATHMANDU, Nepal - Helicopters crisscrossed the skies above the high mountains of Gorkha district on Tuesday near the epicenter of the weekend earthquake in Nepal, ferrying the injured to clinics, and taking emergency supplies back to remote villages devastated by the disaster that killed more than 5,000 people across the region.

The death toll from the 7.9-magnitude earthquake has risen to 5,057, and a total of 10,915 others were injured, said the Ministry of Home Affairs Tuesday.

Another 18 people were also killed in a quake-triggered avalanche that swept the Qomolangma base camp. In neighboring India, 61 people were killed and China's official Xinhua News Agency reported 25 dead and 383 others were injured in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Not far from the quake's epicenter, 250 people were feared missing after a mudslide and avalanche on Tuesday, district official Gautam Rimal said.

Heavy snow had been falling near the village, Ghodatabela, and the ground may have been loosened by the quake. Rimal said officials received initial reports of the disaster by phone but then lost contact.

The village, about a 12-hour walk from the nearest town, is along a popular trekking route, but it was not clear if the missing included trekkers.

The death toll from the earthquake could reach 10,000, the Nepali prime minister said on Tuesday, as residents frustrated by the government's slow response used their bare hands to dig for signs of their loved ones.

More than 400,000 houses were destroyed or damaged by Saturday' s earthquake, which was followed by a series of aftershocks, including a 6.7-magnitude quake on Sunday afternoon

Survivors struggle with shortages

Across central Nepal, including in Kathmandu, the capital, hundreds of thousands of people are still living in the open without clean water or sanitation. It rained heavily in the city Tuesday, forcing people to find shelter wherever they could.

At Kathmandu airport, flights arrived with emergency aid and helicopters brought in both foreign trekkers and local Nepalese villagers from quake-struck areas.

Trucks carrying food were on their way to affected districts outside the hard-hit and densely-populated Kathmandu valley, and distribution of the food was expected to start Tuesday.

The United Nations says it was releasing US$15 million from its central emergency response fund for quake victims, UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Monday.

Citing government figures, Haq said an estimated 8 million people have been affected by the quake in 39 of Nepal's districts, and more than 1.4 million need food assistance, including 750,000 who live near the epicenter in poor quality housing.

The immediate priority is search and rescue, and removing debris to find survivors still trapped, he said.

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