Aid trickles in as survivors salvage belongings from rubble in Nepal villages struck by earthquake
Aid trickled in to villages Monday in Nepal's northwest mountains flattened by a strong earthquake over the weekend as villagers searched through the rubble of their collapsed homes to salvage what was left of their belongings.
The magnitude 5.6 temblor struck just minutes before midnight Friday, killing 157 people, injuring scores and leaving thousands homeless. The U.S. Geological Survey said that the quake occurred at a depth of 11 miles (18 kilometers). Nepal's National Earthquake Monitoring and Research Center confirmed that the epicenter was in Jajarkot, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) northeast of the capital, Kathmandu.
Authorities on Monday pressed on with efforts to bring food and other supplies, tents and medicines to the remote villages, many only reachable by foot. Roads were also blocked by landslides triggered by the earthquake. Soldiers could be seen trying to clear blocked roads.
Later in the afternoon, the ground shook again with a magnitude 5.3 aftershock that sent people scrambling for safety.
Rescue and search teams said the first part of their mission — to rescue survivors, get the injured to treatment and search for bodies — was over.
"Now we are working on the second phase of our work to distribute relief material, get aid to the villagers, and at the same time we are collecting details about the damages," government official Harish Chandra Sharma said Monday.
The National Emergency Operation Center in Kathmandu said that along with the 157 killed, at least 256 people were injured and 3,891 houses were damaged.
In Chepare, villagers were going through piles of rocks and logs that used to be their homes on Monday, looking for anything they could salvage.
"Most of what belonged to us is under the rubble, all our beds, clothes, whatever jewelry and money we had, it's all under there," said Nirmala Sharma, pointing to her wrecked home.
She said they got a tent and some food on Sunday night. Authorities distributed rice, oil, instant noodles and salt in the village, to last them for a few days.
Tarpaulin and plastic sheets made for temporary shelters for a lucky few while thousands of others spent a third night in the cold.
Mina Bika said her family was sleeping on Friday night when the ceiling fell and buried them. A relative rescued them. Her husband was badly injured and taken to hospital in the town of Surkhet while she and the couple's two sons were only lightly hurt.
"It felt like the world had collapsed and I was not sure if anyone had even survived and would be able to help," she said.
Most of the homes in the villages in the districts of Jajarkot and Rukum — where houses are traditionally built by stacking rocks and logs — either collapsed or were severely damaged but even the few buildings made out of concrete were also damaged.
Monday's aftershock caused panic but there were no casualties, only a few structures that were already damaged were reported to have completely collapsed, said police official Binod Majhi. He added that the tremor would likely force many to spend a fourth night in the open.
After a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, Communications Minister Rekha Sharma told reporters that supplying food and setting up temporary shelters were the main focus of government efforts for the moment while also working on plans to reconstruct damaged houses.
Friday night's quake was also felt in India's capital, New Delhi, more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) away.
Earthquakes are common in mountainous Nepal. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015 killed around 9,000 people and damaged about 1 million structures.