Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday issued a travel warning for Nepal following the devastating earthquake that struck the country over a week ago, as the death toll from the disaster rose to 7,557.
The ministry stated that a severe shortage of medical services and supplies can be expected in Nepal for an extended period of time, noting that drinking water sources in several regions across the country were likely contaminated.
Nepalese authorities said Tuesday that more than 131,500 Nepalese military and police personnel were now taking part in the massive aid operation in the vast Himalayan nation, aided by more than 100 teams of foreign relief workers.
While the government has acknowledged being overwhelmed by the April 25 disaster and there have been complaints of delays to the relief effort, the home ministry indicated the situation was being brought under control.
“The situation in the country is gradually becoming normal because relief items have already reached crucial, hard hit areas,” home ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal told AFP. “Everybody is trying to return to their normal lives and all our government machinery is working to make sure that all relief is provided for as long as people want and need. We are trying our best.”
His comments came after the National Emergency Operation Center said the total number of dead had now reached 7,557 while 14,536 were injured in the 7.8-magnitude quake, Nepal’s deadliest in more than 80 years. The quake also killed more than 100 people in India and China.
The Nepalese government has warned that the final toll is likely to be much higher as rescue teams are only now beginning to access remote areas in the Himalayan nation which were among the worst affected
US military helicopters began reconnaissance trips on Monday to assess the damage in remote areas and are expected to shortly begin delivering relief supplies and airlift casualties.
Dhakal said relief operations could carry on for weeks, if not months.
“There are so many people who have been displaced and so many people who have lost their homes and barely living under thin sheets and tent structures,” he said. While the government has set aside 20 billion rupees (around $196 million) for a reconstruction and rehabilitation fund, it is also looking for large-scale financial assistance from the international community.
On Monday, Israeli rescue teams operating in Nepal retrieved the body of the 22-year-old Israeli hiker who was killed in the earthquake. Or Asraf’s remains were airlifted from a remote village in the Langtang village to Kathmandu, and will be flown later Tuesday to Israel.
Asraf’s body was found Sunday night by an Israeli rescue team after his father and members of his former Israeli army unit joined the search effort.
A member of the Israeli team that found his remains, Oren Morgan, told Israel Radio that several European hikers were also killed in the area.
He said evidence collected during the search for Asraf was handed over to the UN base in Nepal in order to form a better understanding of what happened to hikers from around the world who were declared missing in the area following the earthquake.
Asraf, 22, was the only Israeli fatality from the quake.
Langtang, near the border with Tibet, was one of the areas worst hit by the April 25 quake that struck at the height of the spring trekking season, trapping hundreds of tourists and Nepalis in remote areas accessible only on foot or by helicopter.
BBC footage from Langtang broadcast Tuesday showed scenes of utter devastation, with houses razed and bodies laid out on tarpaulins on the desolate terrain, ringed by snow-capped mountains and dotted with Tibetan Buddhist stupas and prayer flags.
With information still emerging from the remote area it remains unclear how many people were killed, but local authorities have found 52 bodies including seven foreigners.
They estimate there could be more than 150 Nepalis and 100 tourists buried in Langtang village, which is home to around 400 people — mostly subsistence farmers or guesthouse workers.
According to Nepal’s tourism department, more than 550 trekkers had registered to hike in Langtang from mid-April onwards. Many foreigners and Nepalis are unaccounted for, with anxious families running campaigns for updates on Facebook and Twitter.
Nine of the victims recovered in the Langtang Valley since the April 25 earthquake and mudslide were foreign trekkers, said Gautam Rimal, the top government official in the Rasuwa district. Villagers say as many as 200 people could have been killed.
The valley and its little village of Langtang are about 60 kilometers (35 miles) north of Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. It was a popular stop for trekkers because of its scenic views of the Himalayas.
“The entire village was wiped out by the mudslide. There were some 60 houses there, but they were all buried under rubble. It will be impossible to recover all the bodies,” Rimal said.
Uddhav Bhattarai, chief district officer of Rasuwa, told AFP it was impossible to say how many tourists had been killed or remained missing in the area.
“No more guesthouses are there, everything was wiped (out) by the avalanche,” he said.
“Neighboring guesthouses for trekkers are there, some, but not in Langtang (village). No more in Langtang.”
AP contributed to this report