Nepal has been overwhelmed by its second powerful earthquake in less than three weeks, its prime minister said Thursday as he visited this normally placid foothills town, now filling up with frightened villagers desperate for government help.
Thousands of people coming from surrounding areas to seek help crowd the streets of Charikot, the administrative center of the isolated district hit hardest by Tuesday's magnitude-7.3 quake, which killed at least 110 people and injured more than 2,300. The magnitude-7.8 earthquake that hit April 25 killed more than 8,150 people, injured tens of thousands more and left hundreds of thousands homeless.
"After the first quake, we were not prepared for a second one so big," Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told reporters after arriving in Charikot by helicopter.
With hundreds of thousands of people left homeless, he said the coming monsoon rains loomed large.
"We need tents. Our people need shelter. With the rainy season, it will be difficult for people to survive in the open," he said.
Nearly everyone is too afraid to sleep indoors and aftershocks are keeping people on edge in this town. Food has been handed out occasionally here, but nowhere near enough for the people who keep arriving. Many simply waited at the locked
gates of the army's small aid distribution center, shaking the fence angrily when their frustration got the better of them.
"We came here with such hopes and such difficulty, but now we're just waiting and waiting," said Navraj Nama, 25, who came to Charikot with his brother and elderly uncle after the second earthquake. He said 90 percent of their home village, Danda Khorka, had been damaged in the April 25 quake, and about 50 buildings collapsed when the second one hit.
Nama's village is among those in desperate need of shelter, and the young farmer came here hoping to get tents or tarpaulins to carry back with him. None was available.
Sabita Debi, who ran a tea shop with her teenage son, said she has been living in the open with her children since the first April 25 earthquake. Her damaged house leaning to one side, Devi said she had received one tarp sheet and some rice in the past two weeks.
Her face is red and chapped from the long days spent in the sun. "The government is promising but nothing has come to us ... We keep running here and there when we hear food is being distributed," said 35-year-old Debi, dressed in a crumpled sari since she left her home two weeks ago.