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Joy for rescued Nepalese but fears grow for rural areas

Update: May, 01/2015 - 15:33


Nepalese police personnel carry earthquake survivor Pemba Tamang (C) on a stretcher after his rescue from a destroyed hotel building in Kathmandu on April 30, 2015. - AFP/VNA Photo

KATHMANDU - Rescuers pulled a teenage boy and a woman in her thirties alive from the rubble of Nepal's earthquake Thursday, as the Red Cross warned of "total devastation" in areas near the epicentre.


The rescue of 15-year-old Pemba Tamang, who said he stayed alive by eating a jar of ghee (clarified butter), was hailed as a miracle five days after the massive quake that has so far claimed nearly 6,000 lives.


Crowds of bystanders massed to watch the drama unfold at a guesthouse in the capital of Kathmandu, greeting the teenager with cheers as he emerged from the ruins of the building.

Caked in dust, Pemba was fitted with a neck brace and hooked up to an intravenous drip before being lifted onto a stretcher and then raced to a field hospital where he was found to have only minor cuts and bruises.

"I never thought I would make it out alive," the teenager said at the Israeli military-run facility where he was being kept for observation.

Pemba, who worked at the guesthouse as a bellboy, said he had been eating lunch next to reception when the ground started shaking.

"I tried to run but... something fell on my head and I lost consciousness -- I've no idea for how long," he said.

"When I came round, I was trapped under the debris and there was total darkness," he added.

"I heard other people's voices screaming out for help around me... but I felt helpless."

The recovery of another teenager's body from the same area underlined how the prospects of finding further survivors of Saturday's 7.8-magnitude quake were becoming more remote.

Libby Weiss, a spokeswoman at the Israeli field hospital, said Pemba was doing "remarkably well", confirming he did not have any major injuries.

"He was under the rubble for 120 hours and it is certainly the longest we have heard of anybody being under the rubble and surviving," she said.

"I don't have any logical explanation. It is miraculous. It is a wonderful thing to see in all this destruction."

Just hours later, a team pulled a kitchen worker in her thirties named Krishna Devi Khadka from the rubble of another hotel just streets away, to loud appreciation from the multinational team of rescuers who had worked into the night to save her.

Emergency workers from France, Norway and Israel operating with the Nepal army and using listening devices to find survivors took 10 hours to free Khadka once they had discovered her.

"She was injured but she was conscious and talking," a Nepal army major told an AFP reporter at the scene.

"It is as though she had been born again."

'Total devastation' 

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) meanwhile warned Thursday they were "extremely concerned" about the welfare of hundreds of thousands of people, with those in remote areas outside the Kathmandu Valley facing an unknown fate.

The devastation appeared particularly dire in the Sindupalchowk region, a mountainous area northeast of Kathmandu, which was becoming a major focus of international relief efforts with up to 90 percent of homes destroyed in some parts.

"Six Red Cross assessment teams are reporting that some towns and villages in the worst-affected districts close to the epicentre have suffered almost total devastation," it said in a statement.

Launching an appeal for $415 million in aid, the UN said it would take a marathon effort to help the people of one of Asia's poorest countries.

The International Monetary Fund said it was ready to extend aid to Nepal and would send a team to assess the situation "as soon as possible".

Nepalese and Indian military helicopters have also been flying in aid to remote areas of Gorkha district, another badly-hit region, which otherwise takes up to 12 days to reach by foot, the WHO said.

The latest official toll put the number of dead at 5,844 and more than 10,000 are known to have been injured. More than 100 people were also killed in neighbouring countries such as India and China.

Signs of normality 

A significant number of people are still living on the roadside or open ground, according to AFP correspondents in the ruined capital, which is normally home to some 2.5 million people, including many migrant workers.

"I don't know how long we are going to do this. How long can we live on the street?" said Rajina Maharjan after another night camped out in a tent outside her house with her husband, in-laws and a four-year-old son.

Hundreds of thousands of residents have fled the city since Saturday, fearing aftershocks and wanting to inspect the damage back in their families' villages.

Signs of normal life were returning Thursday to Kathmandu, with shopkeepers opening, some for their first time since the quake, and vegetable vendors laying out produce at devastated Durbar Square. - AFP


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