With aid not getting through, relief trucks looted in Nepal

SINDHUPALCHOWK: Homeless, exhausted and angry, Nepal quake survivors on Thursday began attacking relief convoys as complaints of tardy aid distribution piled up despite a glut of relief material clogging the airport and relief hubs.

Wet and chilly weather hampered relief work as residents remained on edge due to aftershocks that have rattled the country since the Saturday quake that has actually destroyed thousands of buildings. The official death toll so far is 5,800 but Nepal Army chief General Gaurav Rana, who is leading the nationwide rescue effort, told NBC News, “Our estimates are not looking good. We are thinking that 10,000 to 15,000 may be killed.”

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Most fatalities have been reported from Sindhupalchowk, a district separated from Kathmandu by about 70km but by decades in time. By Thursday, 1,600 people had lost their lives, according to the district administrative office. Numerous more were yet to be pulled out from the rubble of flattened homes.

Little in terms of aid had reached here though. The local media said this has actually increasingly led to attacks on relief vehicles.

Angry men, some of them kids, captured three containers of tents and other items that were being ferried by the Nepal Army at Sangachowk. They said they were afraid what was meant for them might go to “people with connections”.

These were perhaps the first trucks that had arrived in the district with the most damage to both life and property — by comparison the Kathmandu toll stood at about 1,100 on Thursday — and people were not ready to lose them.

Som Bahadur Tamang said he was one of those who tried to seize the contents of the vehicle that were sent by Save the Children and escorted by army men.

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“We are hardworking, honest men,” he said. “We are not robbers. But look at how we have been living. It has actually been almost a week after the earthquake and we are still out in the open. The children have been crying all day. They are cold and without milk. Ke garne ra, paristithi nai esto chha (What can we do, the situation called for it).”

The 100-odd tents, even if they found their way to the needy, are nothing compared to what the 1,50,000 affected in Sindhupalchowk want.

They are mostly out on their own. Local residents spoke of how in the absence of basic first aid, seven people, who had been dug out alive in Golchhe after hours of effort, died later for want of treatment.

Elsewhere in Dolakha district, victims of the quake targeted government buildings and burnt furniture. In Gorkha, Nuwakot, Ramechhap and Dhading, some of the most severely-hit districts, rage was growing.

Away from Kathmandu, officials are both anxious and resigned. Sindhupalchowk district officer Krishna Gyawali said, “So Numerous people come demanding relief, but what can we do if nothing has actually reached us? How can we make them understand?”

Nepal will have to get its act together and quickly take aid to the people, a concern that its National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has actually now raised.

NHRC in its latest report said “real earthquake victims” have not received help, both in Kathmandu Valley and elsewhere. In a statement, it said that food and other material that has actually come from foreign countries lay in piles at the Tribhuvan International Airport and that the need of the hour was to disburse it at the earliest.

Back in Sindhupalchowk, some of the bodies that remain trapped in buildings, 90% of which have been damaged, have begun to rot. There is a deep sense of helplessness all around.

“We can do nothing,” wept Mira Karki, who lost her husband and mother-in-law. “We will die of starvation and disease or cold if the government does not act soon. Please tell them.”

In Kathmandu, overnight rainfall forced Numerous people to return to their damaged homes leading to thinning out of tent cities. Numerous small shops too began to open.

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