Kathmandu/New Delhi, May 4
The Nepal government today asked hundreds of foreign rescue workers to leave the quake-hit country as immediate relief has already been provided and the remaining tasks will be carried out by its Army and police. It, however, clarified to India that its decision to ask foreign rescue personnel to leave was not directed at it but encompassed all other 33 countries present in the Himalayan nation which was now moving into next phase — rehabilitation.
Underlining that his country was thankful to India for responding within "6-7" hours and saving lives following the devastating earthquake, Nepal Ambassador here Deep Kumar Upadhyay indicated that India will remain engaged in the rehabilitation process.
Nepal's decision asking foreign rescue workers to leave had led to speculation that it was directed at India.
"Not not all. Please be positive," he said when asked if Nepal was upset with India.
Meanwhile, Spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry Vikas Swarup said "relief operations will continue in full swing. Nepal government has asked for earth-moving equipment to assist in clearing debris."
However, there was work remaining in the villages and remote mountainous areas that could be carried out by foreign aid volunteers along with the local police and Army, he said.
The Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee — headed by Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister — had asked the government to bid adieu to foreign rescue teams yesterday, eight days after the deadly earthquake hit the Himalayan nation.
Around 4,500 people from around 34 nations, including National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams from India, came to Nepal after the April 25 earthquake, to carry out the rescue work and pull people out of the debris.
Most of the rescue teams were carrying out operations in the worst-affected districts of the Kathmandu Valley, Sindhupalchowk and Gorkha districts.
“It’s more than eight days after the earthquake. The rescue teams have served their purpose and we are very thankful to them.
“The Central Natural Disaster Relief Committee has recommended the government to thank these teams for the work they have done for Nepal, so that they can exit the country. It is up to the government to take a call now,” Home Ministry official Laxmi Prasad Dhakal said.
“According to International Search and Rescue Group (INSRAG) guidelines, the search and rescue teams have to be carried out for 7 days, when the survival chances are highest. The remaining search and rescue work will now be carried out by the Nepalese Army and police,” he added.
However, all the relief and medical teams are still in Nepal carrying out their operations.
The medical teams are expected to be in the country for some more time.
“The Health Ministry will allow only a few teams of health workers to work in the country on the basis of their expertise. Others will be asked to return home.
“Relief teams are working in different teams, but topography and terrain of the nation is still acting as a major impediment in reaching out to the people. But foreign rescue team, the Indian and the American air forces are helping in reaching out to them,” Dhakal added.
41 Indians among 57 foreigners found dead; toll reaches 7,365
The number of Indian nationals killed in the 7.9-magnitude earthquake has reached 41, according to a statement issued by the Nepal Police.
A total of 57 foreigners have been killed in the quake.
“So far, 7,365 people have died and another 14,355 people were injured in the quake,” the statement said.
At least 10 Indians were among injured, it added.
Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat has said that the death toll is expected to climb “much higher”.
Meanwhile, an Indian Air Force team has rescued 22 Buddhist monks from a remote village of Gorkha district, the epicenter of the devastating earthquake on April 25.
The monks were rescued by Indian Army helicopters from Hinang Gompa, according to Indian Embassy sources here.
India’s youngest Everest summitteer Arjun Vajpai was also rescued from Makalu base camp and flown to Kathmandu. Vajpai has been rescued by Nepal Army team from the mountain area.
Fresh aftershocks, including one measuring 4.3 on the Richter Scale yesterday, sent a fresh wave of panic among people, most of whom have been staying in the open battling bad weather and scarce food and water supplies following the country’s worst earthquake in 80 years.
Nepal parties have agreed that all those interested in carrying out relief work in the country can start at once, without having to route the process through the government.
A report released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the number of houses destroyed in the country is over 1,60,000, nearly twice the number of households wrecked in the 1934’s deadly temblor that has been the country’s worst disaster of all times.
The UN urged Nepal to relax customs controls which it says are holding up deliveries of aid coming from countries around the world from reaching the survivors.
Nepal lifted import taxes on tarpaulins and tents on Friday but home ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal said all goods arriving from abroad had to be inspected.
Aid agencies have warned that remote mountainous areas in the country have suffered “almost total devastation”. — PTI