Nepalis dig through quake rubble for survivors, PM says toll could be 10,000

Unicef: Nepal Quake Affected 2.8 Million Children

(Reuters) -- The death toll from Nepal's devastating earthquake could reach 10,000, the prime minister said on Tuesday, as residents frustrated by the government's slow response used their bare hands to dig for signs of their loved ones.

"The government is doing all it can for rescue and relief on a war footing," Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told Reuters. "It is a challenge and a very difficult hour for Nepal."

International aid has finally begun arriving in the Himalayan nation of 28 million people, three days after Saturday's 7.9 magnitude quake, but disbursement is slow. According to the home (interior) ministry, the confirmed death toll stands at 4,349, with more than 7,000 injured.

"The death toll could go up to 10,000 because information from remote villages hit by the earthquake is yet to come in," Koirala said.

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Nepalis dig through quake rubble for survivors, PM says toll could be 10,000
BHAKTAPUR, NEPAL - 2015/05/02: Nepali residents sift through rubble to recover keys, coins, and other small items from the rubble of their home in Bhaktapur, Nepal on May 2, 2015. On April 25, 2015, Nepal suffered a magnitude 7.8 earthquake killing over 6,000 people and injuring thousands more. (Photo by Taylor Weidman/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A Nepalese policeman walks among earthquake debris in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu on April 28, 2015. Hungry and desperate villagers rushed towards relief helicopters in remote areas of Nepal on April 28, begging to be airlifted to safety, four days after a monster earthquake killed nearly 4,500 people. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man carries a woman injured in an earthquake in Kathmandu on April 28, 2015. Hungry and desperate villagers rushed towards relief helicopters in remote areas of Nepal on April 28, begging to be airlifted to safety, four days after a monster earthquake killed nearly 4,500 people. AFP PHOTO / MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
French rescue workers (back) and Spanish rescue workers (front) talk among earthquake debris in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu on April 28, 2015. Hungry and desperate villagers rushed towards relief helicopters in remote areas of Nepal on April 28, begging to be airlifted to safety, four days after a monster earthquake killed nearly 4,500 people. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
Nepalese Military Police officials search through rubble in the earthquake damaged area of Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu on April 28, 2015. Hungry and desperate villagers rushed towards relief helicopters in remote areas of Nepal, begging to be airlifted to safety, four days after a monster earthquake killed nearly 4,500 people. AFP PHOTO/MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL - APRIL 26: Local people and soldiers inspect debris of destroyed buildings after a powerful earthquake hits Katmandu, Nepal on April 26, 2015. The death toll in Nepal climbed towards 2,500 on Sunday as rescuers unearthed the victims of a powerful earthquake. There have been 773 people killed in Nepals densely-populated capital Kathmandu, while the Himalayan nations central region, close to the epicenter of Saturdays 7.8-magnitude quake, has seen 1,055 deaths. (Photo by Sunil Pradhan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Nepalese residents walk past road damage following an earthquake in Kathmandu on April 26, 2015. International aid groups and governments intensified efforts to get rescuers and supplies into earthquake-hit Nepal on April 26, 2015, but severed communications and landslides in the Himalayan nation posed formidable challenges to the relief effort. As the death toll surpassed 2,000, the US together with several European and Asian nations sent emergency crews to reinforce those scrambling to find survivors in the devastated capital Kathmandu and in rural areas cut off by blocked roads and patchy phone networks. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMA (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
Nepalese residents mourn the death of a relative following an earthquake, at a mass cremation at Pashupatinath in Kathmandu on April 26, 2015. Aid groups and governments worldwide intensified efforts April 26 to help earthquake-hit Nepal, but blocked roads, downed power lines and overcrowded hospitals posed formidable challenges in an already poor country. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMA (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
A Nepalese resident mourns the death of a relative following an earthquake, at a mass cremation at Pashupatinath in Kathmandu on April 26, 2015. Aid groups and governments worldwide intensified efforts April 26 to help earthquake-hit Nepal, but blocked roads, downed power lines and overcrowded hospitals posed formidable challenges in an already poor country. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMA (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL - APRIL 26: A motorbike is buried under debris of destroyed buildings in Katmandu, Nepal on April 26, 2015. The death toll in Nepal climbed towards 2,500 on Sunday as rescuers unearthed the victims of a powerful earthquake. There have been 773 people killed in Nepals densely-populated capital Kathmandu, while the Himalayan nations central region, close to the epicenter of Saturdays 7.8-magnitude quake, has seen 1,055 deaths. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Nepalese resident reacts after identifying the body of a relative in a mortuary at a city hospital in Kathmandu on April 26, 2015. International aid groups and governments intensified efforts to get rescuers and supplies into earthquake-hit Nepal on April 26, 2015, but severed communications and landslides in the Himalayan nation posed formidable challenges to the relief effort. As the death toll surpassed 2,000, the US together with several European and Asian nations sent emergency crews to reinforce those scrambling to find survivors in the devastated capital Kathmandu and in rural areas cut off by blocked roads and patchy phone networks. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)
KATHMANDU, NEPAL - APRIL 26: Destroyed buildings seen after a powerful earthquake in Katmandu, Nepal on April 26, 2015. The death toll in Nepal climbed towards 2,500 on Sunday as rescuers unearthed the victims of a powerful earthquake. There have been 773 people killed in Nepals densely-populated capital Kathmandu, while the Himalayan nations central region, close to the epicenter of Saturdays 7.8-magnitude quake, has seen 1,055 deaths. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
BHAKTAPUR, NEPAL - APRIL 26: Relatives of a victim of the earthquake that hit Nepal yesterday cry while walking to the cremation site on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving thousands dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors. (Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images)
The mass cremation of earthquake victims takes place Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu on April 26, 2015. International aid groups and governments intensified efforts to get rescuers and supplies into earthquake-hit Nepal on April 26, but severed communications and landslides in the Himalayan nation posed formidable challenges to the relief effort. AFP PHOTO/PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)
Residents stand in the street outside their homes following an earthquake, in Siliguri on April 25, 2015. A powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, causing massive damage in the capital Kathmandu with strong tremors felt across neighbouring countries. Witnesses and media reports said the quake tremors lasted between 30 seconds and two minutes and were felt across the across the border in India, including in the capital New Delhi. AFP PHOTO / Diptendu DUTTA (Photo credit should read DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian police and bystanders look at a collapsed house following an earthquake, in Siliguri on April 25, 2015. A powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, causing massive damage in the capital Kathmandu with strong tremors felt across neighbouring countries. Witnesses and media reports said the quake tremors lasted between 30 seconds and two minutes and were felt across the across the border in India, including in the capital New Delhi. AFP PHOTO / Diptendu DUTTA (Photo credit should read DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian bystanders look at a collapsed house following an earthquake, in Siliguri on April 25, 2015. A powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, causing massive damage in the capital Kathmandu with strong tremors felt across neighbouring countries. Witnesses and media reports said the quake tremors lasted between 30 seconds and two minutes and were felt across the across the border in India, including in the capital New Delhi. AFP PHOTO / Diptendu DUTTA (Photo credit should read DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Nepalese people walk past collapsed buildings at Lalitpur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu on April 25, 2015. A powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, causing massive damage in the capital Kathmandu with strong tremors felt across neighbouring countries. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMA (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
Nepalese people sit in an open area following an 7.9 earthquake, at Lalitpur on the outskirts of Kathmandu on April 25, 2015. A powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, causing massive damage in the capital Kathmandu with strong tremors felt across neighbouring countries. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMA (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
Nepalese rescue members and onlookers gather at the collapsed Dharahara Tower in Kathmandu on April 25, 2015. A powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, causing massive damage in the capital Kathmandu with strong tremors felt across neighbouring countries. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMA (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
Nepalese people wheel an injured man into an open area following an 7.9 earthquake, at Lalitpur on the outskirts of Kathmandu on April 25, 2015. A powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, causing massive damage in the capital Kathmandu with strong tremors felt across neighbouring countries. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMA (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
BHAKTAPUR, NEPAL - APRIL 26: A relative of one of the victims of the earthquake that hit Nepal yesterday cries on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving thousands dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors. (Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images)
Nepalese rescue members move the body of a victim from the collapsed Dharahara Tower in Kathmandu on April 25, 2015. A powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, causing massive damage in the capital Kathmandu with strong tremors felt across neighbouring countries. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMA (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
Nepalese people stand amidst debris of a collapsed building in Kathmandu on April 25, 2015. A powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, causing massive damage in the capital Kathmandu with strong tremors felt across neighbouring countries. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMA (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
An Indian shopkeeper checks the damage inside his office following an earthquake, in Siliguri on April 25, 2015. A powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, causing massive damage in the capital Kathmandu with strong tremors felt across neighbouring countries. Witnesses and media reports said the quake tremors lasted between 30 seconds and two minutes and were felt across the across the border in India, including in the capital New Delhi. AFP PHOTO / Diptendu DUTTA (Photo credit should read DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)
BHAKTAPUR, NEPAL - APRIL 26: A member of police forces walk down a street covered in debris after buildings collapsed on April 26, 2015 in Bhaktapur, Nepal. A major 7.8 earthquake hit Kathmandu mid-day on Saturday, and was followed by multiple aftershocks that triggered avalanches on Mt. Everest that buried mountain climbers in their base camps. Many houses, buildings and temples in the capital were destroyed during the earthquake, leaving thousands dead or trapped under the debris as emergency rescue workers attempt to clear debris and find survivors. (Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images)
Nepalese residents walks past road damage following an earthquake in Kathmandu on April 26, 2015. International aid groups and governments intensified efforts to get rescuers and supplies into earthquake-hit Nepal on April 26, 2015, but severed communications and landslides in the Himalayan nation posed formidable challenges to the relief effort. As the death toll surpassed 2,000, the US together with several European and Asian nations sent emergency crews to reinforce those scrambling to find survivors in the devastated capital Kathmandu and in rural areas cut off by blocked roads and patchy phone networks. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian residents rest and sleep in a football field in Siliguri on April 26, 2015 after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the region on April 25 in Nepal. International aid groups and governments intensified efforts to get rescuers and supplies into earthquake-hit Nepal on April 26, but severed communications and landslides in the Himalayan nation posed formidable challenges to the relief effort. AFP PHOTO / DIPTENDU DUTTA (Photo credit should read DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)
Indian residents rest and sleep in a football field in Siliguri on April 26, 2015 after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the region on April 25 in Nepal. International aid groups and governments intensified efforts to get rescuers and supplies into earthquake-hit Nepal on April 26, but severed communications and landslides in the Himalayan nation posed formidable challenges to the relief effort. AFP PHOTO / DIPTENDU DUTTA (Photo credit should read DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)
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The United Nations said 8 million people were affected by the quake and that 1.4 million people were in need of food.

Nepal's most deadly quake in 81 years also triggered a huge avalanche on Mount Everest that killed at least 17 climbers and guides, including four foreigners, the worst single disaster on the world's highest peak.

All the climbers who had been stranded at camps high up on Everest had been flown by helicopters to safety, mountaineers reported on Tuesday.

A series of aftershocks, severe damage from the quake, creaking infrastructure and a lack of funds have slowed rescue efforts in the impoverished, mountainous country sandwiched between India and China. In the capital Kathmandu, youths and relatives of victims were digging into the ruins of destroyed buildings and landmarks.

"Waiting for help is more torturous than doing this ourselves," said Pradip Subba, searching for the bodies of his brother and sister-in-law in the debris of Kathmandu's historic Dharahara tower. The 19th century minaret collapsed on Saturday as weekend sightseers clambered up its spiral stairs.

"Our hands are the only machine right now," said the 27-year-old, part of a group of locals pulling out bricks and blocks of concrete with cloth masks over their faces to ward off the stench of rotting bodies. "There is just no one from the government or the army to help us."

Scores of people were killed in the collapse of the tower.

Elsewhere in the capital's ancient Durbar Square, groups of young men cleared rubble from around an ancient temple, using pickaxes, shovels and their bare hands. A few policemen stood by, watching.

Heavy rain later on Tuesday slowed down the rescue work.

The head of neighboring India's National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), one of the first foreign organizations to arrive in Nepal to help in the search and rescue effort, said finding survivors and the bodies of the dead would take time.

NDRF Director General O.P. Singh said heavy equipment could not fit through many of the narrow streets of Kathmandu.

"You have to remove all this rubble, so that will take a lot of time ... I think it's going to take weeks," he told Indian television channel NDTV late on Monday.

SLEPT IN THE OPEN

Many people across Nepal slept in the open for a third night, their homes either flattened or threatened by tremors that spread more fear among a traumatized population.

In Kathmandu, as elsewhere, thousands are sleeping on pavements, roads and in parks, many under makeshift tents.

Hospitals are full to overflowing, while water, food and power are scarce, raising fears of waterborne diseases.

There were some signs of normality on Tuesday, however, with fruit vendors setting up stalls on major roads and public buses back in operation.

But with aid slow to reach many of the most vulnerable, some Nepalis were critical of the government.

"The government has not done anything for us," said Anil Giri, who was with about 20 volunteers looking for two of his friends presumed buried under rubble. "We are clearing the debris ourselves with our bare hands."

Officials acknowledged they were overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.

"The big challenge is relief," said Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudel, Nepal's top bureaucrat.

"We urge foreign countries to give us special relief materials and medical teams. We are really desperate for more foreign expertise to pull through this crisis."

The situation is worse in remote rural areas. Highways have been blocked by landslides, and many villages and communities are without water and electricity, villagers surviving on salvaged food and with no outside help.

While aid has begun arriving in the capital, including food, medical supplies, tents and dogs trained for rescue efforts, the authorities are struggling to deliver relief further afield.

A crush at the main international airport, where relief material and rescue teams are flying in while thousands of residents are trying to leave, has slowed the flow of aid.

India and China were among the first contributors to an international effort to support Nepal's stretched resources.

On Monday, the United States announced an additional $9 million in aid for Nepal, bringing total U.S. disaster funding to $10 million.

U.S. and Australian military transport planes carrying search-and-rescue personnel and supplies were headed to Nepal.

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