By Tunde Olowu.
Still choked by an earthquake which hit Nepal last Saturday and left more than 2,450 people dead, a fresh tremor of magnitude 5.4 on the Richter scale was reported a little before 10 pm on Sunday in Nepal, where aftershocks rattled hospitals and buildings already damaged.
Overwhelmed doctors moved hundreds of patients onto the streets of Kathmandu during the day as the Sick and wounded people lay on a dusty road outside Kathmandu Medical College while hospital workers carried more patients out of the building on stretchers.
The aftershock, itself a strong 6.7 magnitude quake, triggered more avalanches in the Himalayas after Saturday’s 7.9 quake – which unleashed Everest’s worst disaster and was the strongest since 1934 when 8,500 people were killed.
The powerful aftershock on Sunday afternoon was felt in large parts of north India too as many in Delhi the Indian capital rushed out of buildings.
In Kathmandu, relief agencies and officials said most hospitals are overflowing and short on medical supplies. “Both private and government hospitals have run out of space and are treating patients outside, in the open,” said Nepal’s envoy to India, Deep Kumar Upadhyay.
Outside the National Trauma Centre in Kathmandu, patients in wheelchairs who had been under treatment before the earthquake hit joined hundreds of injured with fractured and bloody limbs, who lay inside tents made from hospital sheets.
“We only have one operation theatre here. To be able to provide immediate treatment we require 15 theatres. I am just not able to cope,” said Dipendra Pandey, an orthopaedic surgeon, adding he had done 36 critical operations since Saturday.
India and other neighbouring countries sent in military transport planes laden with medical supplies, food and water. But little sign of organised relief efforts was visible as aid agencies struggled to fly helicopters in cloudy weather, aftershocks forced the intermittent closure of Kathmandu airport and roads were blocked by landslides.
Patchy mobile telephone and email communication added to the slow progress of relief as Asia’s poorest country reeled from its worst earthquake in eight decades.
As rescuers dug with their hands through the rubble of brick buildings in crowded Kathmandu, thousands of survivors prepared to spend a second rainy night outside because they were afraid of going back to damaged homes.
Meanwhile a plane carrying the first 15 climbers injured on Everest arrived in Kathmandu around noon local time. One, Gelu Sherpa, said: “There is a lot of confusion on the mountain. The toll will rise.”
The bodies of 19 climbers were recovered from the mountain, where the big aftershock sent boulders and ice crashing around camps in the high mountains.
“Another one, we have an aftershock right now. Oh shit!” he shouted. “Avalanche.
Meanwhile, with Nepal’s government overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, India flew in medical supplies and members of its National Disaster Response Force, while China sent in a 60-strong emergency team. Pakistan’s army said was sending four C-130 aircraft with a 30-bed hospital, search and rescue teams and relief supplies.
Among the capital’s landmarks destroyed in the earthquake was the 60-metre (200-foot) Dharahara Tower, built in 1832 for the queen of Nepal.
A jagged stump was all that was left of the lighthouse-like structure. As bodies were pulled from the ruins on Saturday, a policeman said up to 200 people had been trapped inside.
Some buildings in Kathmandu toppled like houses of cards, others leaned at precarious angles, and partial collapses exposed living rooms and furniture in place and belongings stacked on shelves.
People wandered the streets clutching bed rolls and blankets, while others sat in the street cradling their children, surrounded by a few plastic bags of belongings.
Rescuers, some wearing face masks to keep out the dust, scrambled over mounds of splintered timber and broken bricks in the hope of finding survivors.
The quake struck at midday on Saturday at a busy time of year for the tourism-reliant country’s trekking and climbing season, with an estimated 300,000 foreign tourists in the country, home to many World Heritage sites.
There were nearly 1,000 climbers and sherpas on Everest when the first avalanche struck and claimed the highest toll of any disaster on the world’s highest mountain.
Tents at Everest base camp were flattened by rocks and snow, climber photographs on social media showed. Another 100 climbers higher up Everest at camps 1 and 2 were safe, but their way back down the mountain was blocked by damage to the treacherous Khumbu icefalls, scene of an avalanche that killed 16 climbers last year.
Authorities have put the death toll in Nepal at 2,460, and police said 6,492 were hurt.