A deadly earthquake in Nepal has left nearly 2,500 dead and thousands without food, shelter or water. International agencies and governments have sent rescue and medical teams to help the impoverished Himalayan nation.
Teams from India, Pakistan, China, Israel and the US were in the capital, Kathmandu, and neighboring areas to help in search and rescue operations, the United Nations told the Reuters news agency.
The 7.9-magnitude earthquake, which struck the Himalayan country shortly before midday on Saturday, killed nearly 2,500 people. More than 6,000 were injured and thousands are missing, Nepal's government said. According to UN estimates, a total of 6.6 million people had been affected by the tragedy.
"The priority remains saving lives and immediate search and rescue ongoing," a report from the office of the UN resident coordinator in Nepal said.
Race against time
Aid workers reported severe damage and destruction of buildings, roads and other infrastructure. The country experienced more than 60 aftershocks, including a 6.7-magnitude tremor on Sunday.
"It's already over 24 hours. Every minute is precious for the people who are trapped under the rubble of buildings," Unni Krishnan, Plan International's disaster response and preparedness head, told Reuters.
"They are likely to be dehydrated, have breathing difficulties due to a lack of oxygen, injuries to head and spine, and may be losing blood," Krishnan added.
Hospitals in the Kathmandu valley were overwhelmed, with several of the injured being treated on the streets. The UN children's agency UNICEF estimated that at least 940,000 children had been affected by the disaster.
"The crisis leaves children particularly vulnerable - limited access to safe water and sanitation will put children at great risk from waterborne diseases, while some children may have been separated from their families," UNICEF said.
Nepal's neighboring countries sent aid and assistance immediately after news of the earthquake broke out. India - which also suffered casualties after 62 people died in its states bordering Nepal - sent 43 tons of relief material along with tents, food and helicopters to help Kathmandu with its rescue missions.
Pakistan also sent relief material and health workers from Islamabad while China sent a 62-member search team with sniffer dogs.The US also announced support of $1 million (920 million euros) and teams to help the victims.
On Sunday, the European Union announced 3 million euros in emergency relief. EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides said he had mobilized all means for "emergency response to help survivors and authorities in the aftermath of this tragedy."
Norway said it was sending $4 million as aid, while Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden offered their search and rescue teams, water purification systems and technical assistance.
Amid the offers of help for Nepal, international aid agencies were busy coordinating assistance and trying to solve basic problems like providing clean drinking water and organizing rations, blankets and tents for people.
"Hundreds of thousands are sleeping out in the open as they are too scared to go back in a building because of all the aftershocks," Oxfam India humanitarian manager Zubin Zaman told the German news agency, dpa.
Many aid workers were themselves traumatized, having lost their family members or property in the earthquake. This made relief work all the more difficult, international aid agencies complained.
mg/mkg (dpa, Reuters)