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A Day After Earthquake, Nepal Struck By Aftershocks


Nepal is still reeling from the devastation inflicted by yesterday's 7.8-magnitude earthquake. More than 2,500 people are dead, and there are fears that number will rise. Thousands more are in need of shelter, food and medical aid. Donatella Lorch is a freelance reporter and lives in Nepal's capital, Kathmandu. She says powerful aftershocks are still being felt, including one earlier that measured 6.7. Bad weather is making the miserable conditions even worse.

DONATELLA LORCH: Most people are out on the streets because they're terrified of going to their houses. There's thunder. I don't know if you can hear it on the radio. Outside, it's pouring. So everyone is out on the streets or in the field. It's a very grim sight.

RATH: Donatella, tell us about where you are right now. Are you in Kathmandu, and can you describe the scene?

LORCH: I'm in Kathmandu, in our gardens outside our house. We live in the southern - in the far southern suburb, which I specifically chose because it was on a ridge away from the dense concentration in Kathmandu, which I thought would help if ever I was around for an earthquake.

RATH: How well are than the Nepali authorities organized to deal with the needs of this earthquake?

LORCH: Oh, they aren't, but that's the great thing about the Nepali people - is that they are so self-sufficient because they know that they survive and thrive not because of their government, but in spite of their government. Basically, the day today - and I was walking down the street from my house yesterday, and we met all these people who are camping out on the side of the road. And they said, do you have water? Do you have food? You're more than welcome to share ours.

RATH: There have been pledges for aid - for international aid coming from the U.S., from India, other countries. But we also understand there have been problems with the airport re-opening - things like that. When do you think the aid - the foreign aid can get in?

LORCH: Well, the airport's open.


LORCH: There's tons of international flights that come. And starting last night, throughout the night, there were Indian C-130s that were coming in with tons of medicines. If you live in Kathmandu, you know exactly the sound of every single plane that goes in and out because it defines whether you're going to be cut off from the rest of the world or not. It's the only international airport in Nepal.

RATH: You talked about how people are coping there. What are people doing to organize themselves, to take care of themselves?

LORCH: You know, I think they're going hour by hour and day by day. The big issue here in Kathmandu is that water and fuel is going to run out probably within the week. So that means drinking water. Most of the water mains have been broken by the earthquake and all its repeated aftershocks. Electricity has badly damaged hydropower plants, and they haven't been repaired yet. So no one has electricity, unless it's generator-powered. And when the diesel runs out at the end of the week or soon after that, there's going to be no more generators. So everyone's going to be forced into pitch black darkness. And that is going to transform the situation and make it much more dire, and it's pretty dire right now.

RATH: Sounds like it. Donatella Lorch is a correspondent who's speaking to us from Nepal. Donatella, thank you so much.

LORCH: You're very welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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