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Traffic-choked road to Nepal earthquake epicenter slows aid

April 27, 2015 at 6:45 PM EDT
Since an earthquake struck Nepal Saturday, aid is trickling in at a painfully slow pace to both the capital city of Kathmandu as well as the earthquake’s epicenter five hours east. Dan Rivers of Independent Television News reports on the logistical challenges.
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GWEN IFILL: We return to the devastation and desperation in Nepal.

As we reported earlier, aid is coming in at a painfully slow pace to the capital of Kathmandu, but also to the quake’s epicenter five hours east.

Dan Rivers of Independent Television News traveled to the country’s Gorkha district, along with the emergency workers trapped in traffic.

DAN RIVERS, ITN: Remote and as yet unreached by the outside world, these villages in Gorkha district are near the epicenter of this disaster, and the damage is substantial.

On hill ridges, some only accessible by foot, the challenge for the rescue effort is obvious, and the signs aren’t good. Even in the larger towns, it is the same awful imagery and an eerie stillness. And this is the only way to get to Gorkha by road. The main highway is choked with traffic caused by thousands of people trying to leave Kathmandu, some fleeing in fear for their own safety, some out of concern for others.

But you’re going to check on your — your house?

ARJUN GAIRE: I am going to check my house.

DAN RIVERS: And your family is OK?

ARJUN GAIRE: Our family are OK, but house — is no house.

(LAUGHTER)

DAN RIVERS: There’s no house left?

ARJUN GAIRE: Yes.

DAN RIVERS: It’s destroyed?

ARJUN GAIRE: Yes.

DAN RIVERS: You get a sense of the logistical challenge trying to respond to this earthquake. This traffic jam we have been stuck in for hours stretches back for miles. And this is the only road to the epicenter.

Some ambulances are getting through, but progress is painfully slow. And the international response has hardly begun.

SEAN CASEY, International Medical Corps: There’s a lot of people leaving town, seemingly headed towards the Indian border. But we have been stuck for hours, and we’re trying to get a medical team to Gorkha now. So, access is the biggest problem right now.

DAN RIVERS: In the best of times, the infrastructure of Nepal is fragile. And these are the worst of times, people doing whatever it takes to find those they love. On this, the third night since the earthquake, this was the scene on the road to Gorkha.

We found this vigil for the missing, spelling out a simple message, “Pray for Nepal.” With so many families still cut off from help, tonight, there seems nothing else they can do.

GWEN IFILL: Dan Rivers spoke to us after filing his report.

DAN RIVERS: Several things have struck me on the journey toward Gorkha district.

Firstly, as you saw in my report, the logistics are absolutely horrendous for mounting this rescue operation. There’s effectively one truck road that goes across this part of Nepal. And it has been choked with traffic today caused by a land slip.

That’s going to make it very difficult to get the supplies in where they’re needed. Secondly, a lot of the villages that have been hit apparently are up on the tops of the hills where there is not even vehicle access. It’s amazing actually in the valleys, where we are at the moment, how little damage there is.

We understand the damage is much more extensive higher up into the mountains, where it’s even more difficult to get to. And really to get to those places, they are going to be relying on helicopters. And they just don’t have the capacity at the moment in Nepal to get those helicopters where they’re needed and get the people out.

We understand there’s more than 6,000 people injured. We have seen on the road today many Indian army vehicles, so perhaps India can bring in the resources that Nepal is apparently lacking.

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