Around 1,000 Europeans still missing: says envoy
Some 12 Europeans are killed and around 1,000 are still not in contact after Saturday’s devastating earthquake, according to an EU official.
The EU envoy to Nepal Rensje Teerink said that the authorities did not know the whereabouts of some 1,000 other EU citizens. “They are missing but we don’t know what their status is,” she said today.
Another EU official said that most of the missing were likely to be found safe. Many backpackers do not register with their embassies in Nepal, which has made it harder to trace them, he said, adding that avalanches – that struck base camp below Mt Everest – triggered by the quake has killed some of the mountaineers. “Twelve EU citizens are known to have died so far.”
However, landslides and poor weather have hampered efforts to deliver aid to isolated districts. Most of them are thought to have been trekking in the Mt Everest or remote Langtang regions.
Langtang – north of the Kathmandu Valley – is a popular trekking destination but suffered from dangerous mudslides and an avalanche. Likewise, Lukla – a town in the north-east – sits at the base of Mt Everest. Many of the EU citizens are hoped to be alive but isolated by the quake that struck during peak trekking season in a country popular with mountaineers.
Likewise, the fate of thousands of Nepalis in remote communities is also unknown due to lack of access.
Nepal has called for more foreign help and humanitarian aid, admitting it was ill-prepared for the disaster.
Information Minister Minendra Rijal said that ‘seminars and workshops probably are not that useful’ in dealing with the crisis. And any projection has not taken into account that so many people and so many districts would be affected. “It is a calamity of enormous proportions,” he added.
According to the authorities, the death toll from Saturday’s 7.8-magnitude quake could rise to 10,000. Likewise, over 14,000 people were injured in the disaster. Relief and rescue teams have reached most areas but many people remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
The UN on Wednesday launched a ‘flash appeal’ for $415 million (£270 million) to assist Nepal over the next three months – but it has so far received only $5.8 million – in confirmed funding.
Though, people have returned to their homes as the fear of aftershocks subsides, some areas of Kathmandu Valley is still in rubble with suspected rotting bodies due to slow pace of rescue operations.
Last year, around 800,000 tourists visited Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 tallest peaks, including 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) Mt Everest, the world’s highest peak. The quake, which struck in the middle of the tourist high season, destroyed nearly half of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu and triggered avalanches on Mt Everest that killed 19. It’s the latest setback for the industry, which suffered two tragedies in 2014.
Travellers are cancelling trips as governments issue advisories to stay away. Those still in the country are scrambling to get home.
Last April, the climbing season was cut short when 16 Sherpa guides were killed by an avalanche on Mt Everest. In October, nearly four dozen foreign trekkers, guides and villagers were killed by snow storms and avalanches that swept the Annapurna region.
Three of the seven World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley have been severely damaged, including Durbar Square with pagodas and temples dating from the 15th to 18th centuries, according to the UNESCO.
“The damage to these cultural landmarks will have a significant economic impact,” a tourism entrepreneur said, adding that similar cultural rebuilding was carried out after another major earthquake struck in 1934, and it could be done again by master artisans provided they’re given enough resources. It is vital because not only the whole Valley economy depends on these cultural icons, but it will affect many other tourism-related economic activities all across Nepal.