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Nepal: Rescues continue but hope dwindles as toll grows

Even as the death toll in Nepal's devastating earthquake has risen above 5,000, at least some rays of hope continue to emerge. The United Nations has appealed for $415 million to provide for vital needs.

Helicopters rescued more than 200 trekkers and villagers in Lantang, on a popular route north of Kathmandu. They had been stranded there since Saturday, when a 7.8-magnitude earthquake - Nepal's strongest in eight decades - killed more than 5,000 people and injured over 10,000.

Officials flew the trekkers and villagers to the nearby town of Dhunche. However, with landslides cutting off the roads from there to Kathmandu, where 1,500 people died Saturday, the trekkers will have to trudge for at least four hours before they can board a bus to the capital.

The United Nations has reported that just 14 people have been rescued alive since Saturday. Nearly 100 people died outside the country, in Bangladesh, India and China.

Aftershocks continue to ripple

across the region.

'Unnecessary items'

The UN has asked countries for $415 million (375 million euros) to support Nepalese authorities in their efforts to provide shelter, food, water and medical care to people over the next three months. About 4.2 million people urgently need water and sanitation, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; 1.4 million need food aid, and 500,000 have gone without shelter since Saturday.

Hungry and cold, people have grown impatient of waiting for help to arrive. Residents have begun to leave the capital en masse.

On Wednesday, Kathmandu's single-runway airport was "overcrowded" as teams and

relief materials

arrived and survivors, including tourists, tried to get out, said Ram Jushmar Dahal, the head of the Interior Ministry's disaster management department.

Dahal told DPA that the "international community should not dump unnecessary items on us," adding that

Nepal needed very specific contributions

: money, tents, dry food and medical volunteers.

More than 15 countries were involved in the rescue and relief efforts. "We have been coordinating with the government to distribute aid," said Ram Babu Shah, Nepal's UN national information coordinator. "We are also trying to work in coordination with the other aid agencies that have arrived in Nepal to provide relief and rescue."

On Tuesday, Nepal's government

declared three days of mourning

.

mkg/lw (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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