Thousands of villagers in remote northwestern Nepal areas are waiting to cremate their family members who were killed in a deadly earthquake as rescue operations remain inaccessible to those who are not travelling on foot on Sunday.
“We are waiting to cremate the bodies of our villagers and have been trying to take care of the people who were injured in the earthquake,” said Lal Bahadur Bika, a resident of Chiuri village, pointing to 13 bodies wrapped in white cloth awaiting cremation on Sunday morning.
Most houses in his village collapsed during the quake.
Rescuers have been dispatched to assist those affected, but their operations continue to be hindered in many mountainous villages accessible only on foot. The earthquake also triggered landslides in the mountainous region which blocked the roads for reaching the worst-hit parts as soldiers were seen trying to clear the blocked roads.
Apart from rescue helicopters, small government and army planes able to land in the short mountain strips were also used to ferry the wounded to Nepalgunj.
Local media reports that most victims were crushed by debris from their rock and log houses during the earthquake.
Baljit Mahar, 32, sat cross-legged by the body of his seven-year-old son, one of 157 people killed. “We could not save him, while all the other six members of the family were able to rush out as soon as the earthquake jolted us from our sleep,” he told Reuters in the remote village of Chiuri in the hilly Jajarkot district.
Bimal Kumar Karki said he was fast asleep when all of a sudden the ground started shaking violently.
“I tried to run but the whole house collapsed. I tried escaping but half my body got buried in the debris. I screamed, but every one of my neighbours was in the same situation and screaming for help. It took nearly a half-hour to an hour before rescuers found me,” he said. He was one of the first to be rushed to the regional hospital.
Another man affected by the quake said he was buried in the debris while he was asleep.
“I was asleep and around 10 or 11 at night it started shaking and the house caved. So many houses have collapsed and so many people have been buried,” said Tika Ram Rana, who had his head wrapped in a white bandage.
The survivors of the quake are using whatever they can find to set up makeshift camps and shelters to sleep at night, mostly using plastic sheets and old clothes to feel warm.
Nepalese deputy prime minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha said that his government is trying to provide aid in the affected areas as tents, food and medicine were flown in as thousands became homeless overnight.
At least 105 people were killed in Jajarkot district which was the epicentre of the quake and another 52 people were killed in the neighbouring Rukum district. At least 184 people were injured in the earthquake that was felt strongly in New Delhi too.
Officials have arranged more than 100 beds in the regional hospital in Nepalgunj.
Nepal experiences frequent deadly earthquakes due to its location on the faultlines of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates. At least 9,000 people were killed in 2015 and about one million structures were damaged in a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2015.
Additional reporting with agencies