KATHMANDU – Poor weather conditions in most of the areas affected by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal three days ago have hindered rescue operations outside Kathmandu, a government official told Efe on Tuesday.
Nepali Forests and Soil Conservation Minister Mahesh Acharya said that even the MI-17 helicopters sent by neighboring India have not been able to access the most affected areas.
Acharya declined to comment on the climbing death toll, estimated to have reached 4,349 people according to the last official count.
“Our priority at this point of time is to find (trapped) people and rescue them... Rescue is more important for us than numbers,” Acharya insisted, while he added that the country was simply not prepared for a catastrophe of this magnitude.
On Monday, Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said in a meeting with political parties that the search and rescue operations had not been effective, according to media reports, and that distress calls were going unanswered due to severed communications and unprepared rescue teams.
The country’s opposition has criticized the government’s inadequate response to the disaster, and urged it to include all relevant organizations to better respond to the needs of the people.
Saturday’s earthquake is being called the worst in Nepal’s recent history and one of the most powerful in the region, since an earthquake in 2005 in Kashmir that killed more than 84,000 people.