01/13/2016, 00.00
NEPAL
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Snowed in, thousands of earthquake victims risk starvation

by Christopher Sharma
​Snow has covered the villages of Laprak, Barpak and Ghyachchok, in Gorkha district. Residents cannot go out and gather wood to keep warm. Helicopters cannot take off because of thick fog. Survivors complain that since last year’s earthquake reconstruction funds donated by the international community have not yet been spent.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Heavy snowfall in Nepal’s upper regions has affected 5,000 people stuck in temporary shelters since last April’s deadly earthquake, which killed more than 9,000 people.

Snow began falling on mountain villages last Friday (8 January), after rain and hail had quickly brought down the temperature. However, the government was able to organise rescue operations and aid distribution only on Monday.

Although the authorities dispatched troops army and rescue teams, the latter have been hard pressed to reach the mountainous area. Bad weather has grounded helicopters and affected telephone lines. As of yesterday, no team had yet reached the population.

In the villages of Laprak, Barpak and Ghyachchok, in Gorkha district, snow is still falling, making it hard for residents to go out, to go to work or simply gather firewood to keep warm.

In the village of Barpak, 1,372 people still live in makeshift shelters, after surviving the earthquake.

AsiaNews was able to reach by telephone one survivor in Barpak, Fulkumari Lama. "We are dying of hunger and cold. Please come quickly to save us,” she said in a desperate appeal.

“Seniors and children are the ones who suffer the most,” she added. “Many have no food in the tents. We cannot go out. Many tents have folded under the weight of the snow and we cannot communicate well with the outside because phone lines are unstable."

Speaking about the situation, Chief District Officer Uddhav Timilsina said, “The government has deployed a rescue group, which came back to report on local conditions after the snowfall. Since the area is covered by a thick fog, rescue operations are very complicated."

For his part, the government through spokesman Sherdhan said that it “plans to give 10,000 (US$ 95) to each family to buy clothes and other items".

However, survivors complain that since the quake nine months ago, reconstruction funds (US$ 880 million from the government and US$ 4.1 billion from international donors) have not yet been spent.

Last month, Nepal’s parliament set up the Reconstruction Authority to manage the money.

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