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Death toll in Nepal earthquake surpasses 7,000

Officials in Nepal have said more than 7,000 people have been killed in the country's earthquake. Survivors are facing a shortage of shelter while the main airport's runway is struggling to cope with aid deliveries.

Nepal's authorities requested on Sunday that donors delivering aid use smaller planes, as the sole runway at the country's only international airport was deteriorating.

Large military and cargo planes have been flying in earthquake relief materials into Tribhuwan International Airport near Kathmandu over the past week but the runway was built to handle only medium-sized jetliners. Airport manager Birendra Shrestha said there had been reports of the runway developing cracks.

"This runway is the only lifeline for Kathmandu - if it goes, everything goes," Shrestha told news agency AFP.

Customs clearance concerns

Amid the rush to get supplies to affected communities, especially in far-flung areas, concerns have been expressed that red tape at Kathmandu's airport was delaying aid deliveries.

"I was extremely concerned to hear reports that customs was taking such a long time," the United Nations' head of humanitarian affairs Valerie Amos told the AFP news agency in Kathmandu on Sunday, adding that she had asked Nepal's Prime Minister Sushil Koirala to speed up customs clearance for aid materials and received a positive response to that.

UN resident representative Jamie McGoldrick said usual customs restrictions should be loosened. However, authorities in Nepal have insisted goods coming in from overseas still needed to be inspected. There have been concerns about inappropriate aid being delivered to the country.

Death toll rises

The death toll from the earthquake has reached 7,040 as reports pour in of rescue and recovery workers in rural villages digging more dead bodies out from the rubble. According to the Emergency Operations Center, more than 14,000 people have been injured and more than 100 people were killed in neighboring India and China. It's feared the number of confirmed deaths will rise as recovery teams make their way to remote areas.

Shortage of tents

Authorities in Nepal had run out of tents to distribute to people who lost their homes in last Saturday's 7.8 magnitude earthquake, an Interior Ministry official said on Sunday.

"We have run out of tents. The government does not have any more tents to give to people. We are hoping that we will receive 100,000 tents tomorrow," ministry spokesman Laxmi Dhakal said.

According to the Associated Press news agency, the Indian state of West Bengal was due to hand over 100,000 tents on Monday.

With monsoon rains expected in a few weeks, the UN children's fund UNICEF has warned of the risk of diseases like cholera for children post-earthquake.

se/rc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)