Kathmandu daily exodus may reach 300,000 as residents flee chaos – The Guardian

More than 100,000 have already left the badly damaged capital of Nepal, heading for distant regions to escape the threat of aftershocks, lawlessness and disease
Desperate living conditions, and fears of disease and a breakdown in law and order in the aftermath of Saturday’s earthquake in Nepal, have sparked an exodus from the country’s capital.
More than 100,000 people have already left Kathmandu, with officials estimating the number could reach 300,000, more than a 10th of the city’s population.
Nepalis in the capital clashed with riot police and seized supplies of water as anger boiled over after buses promised by the government failed to materialise.
At a checkpoint on the main highway out of Kathmandu, officials said more than 300 packed buses and coaches had passed since 5 am on Tuesday, nearly 10 times the usual number.

Most were heading for distant regions, where most Kathmandu residents are originally from. “They keep coming. I’ve never seen it like this,” said city official Tara Bhattrai. “They are going to all destinations”.
The government has laid on free transport and many companies are changing their ticket prices.
“I’m afraid that in Kathmandu, life is a struggle. We have a rented home here but our own house is in the west, which was spared from the earthquake. My parents are very worried about us,” said Lokraz Pant, a 20-year-old engineering student.

Sarlahi Singh, 30, a government scientist, said: “I’m going home where there is food and safety. There is no food here and no government support.”
Thousands of people formed a line around Kathmandu’s Constituent Assembly Building looking for bus coupons that would take them to their respective homes outside Kathmandu valley.
Fearful of epidemics and aftershocks, they were told that the government would provide free buses to different parts of the country.
Sarmila Panthi, 24, joined the queue at around 2am in the hope of returning to her home in Dang district in western Nepal.
But after waiting for hours with no food and water, she has yet to secure a ticket. “It’s been almost eight hours since I got here with my one-year-old child,” she said. “Life has become very tough. I have no water and can’t even use a toilet.”
AFP reported that riot police clashed with people angry over the slow distribution of bus tickets. Some protesters forced a truck carrying drinking water off the road and climbed on top of it, throwing the bottles into the crowd.

Authorities have begun the urgent task of distributing food and water to survivors, but the relief effort is being held up by bad weather and landslides that have blocked access to remote areas that were hit hardest by the disaster.
Five days after Nepal was hit by its worst earthquake in more than 80 years, vast numbers of displaced people queued patiently for emergency supplies, while residents of far-flung villages that have been reduced to rubble still wait for help.
As the country began three days of national mourning, the prime minister, Sushil Koirala, warned that the death toll – now at 5,507 – could eventually rise to more than 10,000. About 8,000 people have been injured.
The UN estimates that eight million people have been affected by the quake – more than a quarter of Nepal’s population – and that 1.4 million are in need of food assistance. Tens of thousands have been left homeless.
Meanwhile around 250 people are feared missing after an avalanche hit a popular trekking route on Tuesday.
“An avalanche occurred in the afternoon today in Ghodatabela, an area on the popular Langtang trekking route,” near the quake’s epicentre, said chief district officer Uddav Prasad Bhattarai.
“It is difficult to say how many are missing, but a preliminary guess is that about 250 might be missing.”
Bhattarai said foreign tourists may have been among those missing after the avalanche, but details remained scant as the area is remote and communications difficult.
All climbers on the Nepal side of Mount Everest have left the mountain and the climbing season is over, according to guiding companies and individual climbers, after dozens of climbers were killed or injured when an avalanche swept across the basecamp area.
Teams attempting to climb the north side of Everest, the Tibet side, were called back to their base camp over the weekend and were holding discussions with Chinese officials about whether any summit attempts will be possible in the remaining weeks of the spring climbing season, Adrian Ballinger, a guide for California-based Alpenglow Expeditions, told the Associated Press.
Eric Simonson with International Mountain Guides said their team came down with others on the Nepal side who had been trapped above the Khumbu Icefall, which was impassable after the avalanche swept away a fixed route through that section. “These will be the last of the climbers on the mountain,” he said in a Monday blogpost.
Amid the chaos and tragedy, there are palpable signs of progress, at least in Kathmandu. The land route to India is open, and flights are landing round the clock at the nation’s single, and now very congested, international airport. The distribution of blankets, food and other vitals has begun in some places and assessments are underway in far-flung districts.
There are so many flights into Kathmandu that there are now real problems with congestion, with more aid shipments still held up outside the country.
Once it clears the bottleneck at the airport, any aid will then face huge difficulties on the road. Even people living just 15 miles from Kathmandu will have to wait a very long time before anything reaches them.
Tilak Bahadur Rana, a farmer in the village of Paslang north of Kathmandu, said the situation was becoming more urgent. “I can’t sleep,” he said. “I am too stressed. I worry about how I will feed my family.
“Because of this earthquake, the whole village is destroyed. We need food. We need a place to sleep, or compensation for all we have lost.”
Queues up to half a mile long formed in the capital Kathmandu on Wednesday, as people who have had to survive on little or no food and water seized the opportunity to receive badly needed essentials.
As a Save the Children convoy passed through the city on its way to villages near the magnitude-7.8 earthquake’s epicentre, it became clear that thousands of residents simply have nowhere to go, their homes having been flattened by violent seismic movement late on Saturday morning.
Others who had stayed out in the open while powerful aftershocks continued to shake the country were nervously making their way back to their damaged homes.
Many people, thought to number in the tens of thousands, were still camping out in parks and other public spaces that have been turned into makeshift refugee camps.
There were chaotic scenes at the city’s main bus station, where riot police intervened as hundreds fought for the few available seats to get back to distant villages to be with their families or check on property. To a man, woman and child, they looked haggard, tired and worried.
Delivering aid to the more remote parts of the country has become an urgent task for Nepal’s government, but one made complicated by poor weather and landslides along mountain roads.
Officials conceded that they were still unsure of the situation in large rural areas flattened by the earthquake. Helicopters are in short supply, and many of the areas where the damage is feared to be extensive cannot be reached by road.
While there are still thousands of people in the capital without assistance, aid is unlikely to reach places like the tiny village of Swarathok, 43 miles (70km) from Kathmandu, any time soon.
“No one has come. I walked to the police post and told them we were here. They said there was no plan and they had no orders and told us to stay where we are and wait. So we are waiting,” said Rashmita Shashtra, 23, a health worker in the village, whose 71 homes were all reduced to rubble.
Swarathok is accessible only via roads still threatened by landslides and strewn with debris, followed by an hour’s walk along a stony path. The village lies in the hilly district of Sindhupalchowk, where the number of deaths now stands at 1,100 and is expected to rise further.
“All the aid stays in the capital city. Out here, we know nothing and no one knows about us,” said resident Sumon Rag Giri, 24.
Convoys heading to more distant areas face huge logistical problems. One convoy took more than an hour to clear Kathmandu itself, and faced at least another five or six hours of driving before reaching the badly damaged Gorkha district.
To make matters worse, there are no effective communications outside of Kathmandu. The mobile phone network is barely functioning in Gorkha, and that is almost certainly the case in other rural districts.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Koirala offered his condolences to people whose relatives died in the quake, and thanked countries that have sent aid and rescue teams.
“In this national crisis I offer my condolences to all the Nepali citizens and foreigners who have lost their lives,” he said. “We hope all our friendly countries will provide assistance to us in this hour of crisis. We have been given assurances in this regard. The government and its people express their gratitude to all these nations who are supporting us.”


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