KATHMANDU: The UN launched a $415 million appeal for survivors of Nepal’s massive earthquake as coordinators warned Thursday that it might take a five-day trek to deliver relief supplies to some of the worst-hit rural areas.
After desperate Nepalis clashed with riot police and seized supplies of bottled water in the capital Kathmandu, the government acknowledged that it had been overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis.
The death toll passed 5,500 while more than 10,000 people have been injured, according to official assessments.
The exact extent of the damage in far-flung rural areas was yet to become clear with relief coordinators warning that the vast size and lack of roads in the Himalayan nation would complicate efforts to reach victims.
President Barack Obama promised the United States will do “all it can” to aid the relief effort as he offered his deepest condolences for the tragedy to Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, the White House said.
Launching its appeal for $415 million in aid, the United Nations said it would be take a marathon effort to help the people of what is one of Asia’s poorest countries.
“This will be a long drawn-out affair. It will be a three-month exercise to address the relief needs, then it will turn into a recovery process and a reconstruction process,” said UN resident coordinator for Nepal, Jamie McGoldrick.
The UN said there were “significant logistical challenges” in responding to such a large-scale crisis in hard-to-reach, mountainous areas.
Many of the communities worst affected by Saturday’s quake—the biggest to hit Nepal in over 80 years—are in remote areas of the Himalayas that rescuers have not been able to reach.
In its latest situation report, the UN said that search and rescue (SAR) was still limited outside of the Kathmandu Valley.
“Some villages can only be reached by foot with some areas taking up to four to five days to reach. Fuel to transport SAR teams is limited,” it said.
“There is a need to prioritize restoration of communications infrastructure, casualty management and basic relief in remote areas.”
Around 70,000 houses have been destroyed and another 530,000 damaged across 39 of Nepal’s 75 districts, the UN said.