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Thousands gather for last day of mourning in Nepal

Thousands gather to pay their last respects to those killed in Nepal's massive earthquake. Thirteen days after Nepal's worst earthquake in eight decades, residents must now try to resume their lives.

Thursday marked the 13th and most important day of mourning for Nepal's earthquake victims. Thousands of residents, many with shaved heads and dressed in white, gathered to take part in rituals at Kathmandu's Pashupatinah temple, where they prayed for relatives and other victims. Many made personal offerings, and priests led chants in a corner of the temple complex where hundreds of cremations have taken place over the last two weeks.

This final day of mourning is also the most important in Nepali Hindu culture as it is believed that the soul departs the body at this time. Though their thoughts are with the souls of the departed, now the

difficult task of rebuilding

must begin for those left behind.

The city is slowly returning to life with some restaurants and shops reopening.

Rebuilding lives and houses

The quake, which occurred on April 25, was Nepal's deadliest in over 80 years. It registered a magnitude of 7.8, and claimed over 7,800 lives. More than 100 deaths were registered in India and China as well.

Nepal's National Emergency Operation Center (NEOC) has said as many as 300,000 houses were destroyed in the quake, and that another 250,000 were damaged. More than 1,000 engineers are currently checking damaged houses in the capitol and advising people about whether they are safe or not.

A key consideration for the impoverished country moving forward will be the use of new building technologies in earthquake prone areas. It has been estimated that reconstruction costs could be as high as $5 billion, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that Nepal's economy will "decelerate in the short term."

Children at risk

The UN children's agency UNICEF said that some 24,000 classrooms were destroyed in the quake and that at least 1 million children are now without classrooms. "Children affected by the earthquake need urgent life-saving assistance like clean water and shelter, but schools in emergencies - even in a temporary setup, play a vital role too," according to UNICEF.

A UN health official said Thursday that there have been no epidemics in earthquake-affected areas or in shelter camps. The World Health Organization (WHO) deputy regional director for Southeast Asia, Poonam Singh, said there had been a few cases of diarrhea, but that this wasn't unusual for this time of year. She did warn, however, that there could be problems during the upcoming monsoon season, which begins next month.

js/sms (AP, AFP, dpa)

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