One thousand Europeans missing after Nepal quake

However Nepal's home ministry said it had not been informed the number of EU citizens missing could be that high. (Reuters)

Nepali and foreign officials were struggling on Friday to locate thousands of people still missing after last week's massive earthquake, as food and other relief supplies began to trickle through to those stranded in remote parts of the country.

Up to 1,000 Europeans are among the missing, mostly around popular trekking routes, the head of the European Union (EU) delegation in Nepal said.

"We don't know where they are, or they could be," Ambassador Rensje Teerink told reporters.

Officials said it was hard to trace the missing because many backpackers do not register with their embassies in the country.

However Nepal's home ministry said it had not been informed the number of EU citizens missing could be that high.

"If that is the case then why are the embassies not informing us? Why have they not contacted the Nepal
government?," home ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal told Reuters.

The number of people missing from France, Italy and Spain is 221 according to checks Reuters made with their governments, while other European nations are yet to provide an updated figure on how many of their citizens are unaccounted for.

The confirmed death toll from last Saturday's disaster has risen to 6,250, with 14,357 injured according to the government.

There is no number for the missing, but bodies are still being pulled from the debris of ruined buildings, while rescue workers have not been able to reach some remote areas.

In the capital Kathmandu, many unclaimed bodies were being quickly cremated because of pressure on mortuaries.

Besides the possibility of disease, the stench of the corpses was spreading through localities where buildings had collapsed.

Many bodies could be migrant workers from neighbouring India, who would be living alone in the Himalayan nation, local officials said.

"Morgues are full beyond capacity and we have been given instruction to incinerate bodies immediately after they are
pulled out," said Raman Lal, an Indian paramilitary force official working in coordination with Nepali forces.

Aid was beginning to slowly reach remote towns and villages nestled in the mountains and foothills of the impoverished nation.

But government officials said efforts to step up the pace of delivery were frustrated by a shortage of supply trucks and drivers, many of whom had returned to their villages to help their families.

"Our granaries are full and we have ample food stock, but we are not being able to transport supplies at a faster pace," said Shrimani Raj Khanal, a manager at the Nepal Food Corp.

Army helicopters have air-dropped instant noodles and biscuits to remote communities but people need rice and other ingredients to cook a proper meal, he said.

Many Nepalis have been sleeping in the open since the 7.8 magnitude quake, with survivors afraid of returning to their homes because of a series of powerful aftershocks.

According to the United Nations (UN), 600,000 houses have been destroyed or damaged.

Information Minister Minendra Rijal said the government would provide $1,000 in immediate assistance to the families of those killed, as well as $400 for cremation or burial.

The UN said 8 million people in the country of 28 million were affected, with at least 2 million needing tents, water,
food and medicines over the next three months.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:44 - GMT 06:44
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