KATHMANDU – Nepal Interior Ministry Spokesman, Laxmi Dhakal, has attributed shortage of helicopters, as major factor hindering the relief efforts in remote areas of Nepal where earthquake damage was the worst.
He said on Monday in Kathmandu that government was currently using 13 helicopters, including seven private ones, while the Indian Air Force was helping with 14 helicopters, to cover the country’s mountainous terrain.
“We do not have enough helicopters to deliver relief materials and conduct rescue operations simultaneously,” he said.
Dhakal said to enhance the operations, the U.S. military has brought four Osprey aircraft, which can perform vertical landings, while China also brought three helicopters on Monday morning.
He said in spite of the assistance, they are not enough.
“We need at least double or three times more what we have right now,” Dhakal said.
The spokesman said 95 per cent of houses were completely destroyed in some villages, forcing people to live in the fields.
Dhakal said food and emergency supplies were being air-dropped in some places because there was no place to land on the steep mountainsides.
He said government has placed a ban on large aircraft delivering aid from abroad, due to possible damage to the Kathmandu runway.
“Any aircraft weighing more than 169 tons is forbidden. We are sending them back,” he said.
Dhakal said this was because Nepal has only one international airport with a single runway.
He said the airport and the runway were undamaged during the earthquake, but the traffic was higher than it can handle since the earthquake.
Dhakal said the Nepal Emergency Operation Centre, said the official death toll was over 7, 200 but it was expected to rise higher as more victims are recorded in remote regions.
He said the Tourism Board confirmed that 57 foreigners were killed and 52 injured in the quake, as 109 tourists were still missing.
Dhakal said in the Langtang region, the whole village was believed to have been buried under a landslide, but rescuers discovered 52 bodies, including seven foreigners.
“One of them is French and one is Indian, we are trying to identify the other five,’’ he said.
“The operation is ongoing and there is a good chance that more than 200 people, including many foreigners, are buried there,’’ he added.
He said the Interior Ministry has also decided to send back all foreign teams who have come for search and rescue mission.
“We have decided that we can handle the rest of the search and rescue operation,’’ he said.
“We will ask them formally to go back, with many thanks, as soon as the cabinet approves our decision,” he added.
He said 4,050 people from 34 different countries were involved in rescue operations, while 129 dogs were being used. (dpa/NAN)
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