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Avalanches, poor weather roil search and rescue missions in Nepal

Rescuers in Nepal called off their search for missing hikers due to avalanches and poor weather this weekend, even as the death toll from the last month's earthquake surpasses 8,000. Pamela Constable of the Washington Post joins Hari Sreenivasan from Washington to discuss.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS ANCHOR:

    As we reported, the death toll from the earthquake in Nepal has now surpassed 8,000.

    Pamela Constable of The Washington Post just returned from that country, joins us now from Washington.

    What is the state of affairs on the ground there now? We see pictures of helicopters trying to deliver aid. Are people getting it?

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE, THE WASHINGTON POST:

    Yes and no.

    It depends very much where they are. I would say that aid is certainly beginning to reach much of the country, including some of the worst affected areas, but still yet to reach some of the more remote mountainous areas to the north.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And there are still continuing reports of landslides and maybe small aftershocks that caused them. What kind of an effect does it have on the people trying to get with by and recover from this?

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE:

    It has multiple effects, one, of course, of which is psychological, because people are, in fact — the Nepalese people have amazingly resilient and resourceful and accepting ways of dealing with these things.

    I have been incredibly impressed with everyone I met, even in the worst affected areas.

    But just when you think it is over, to have another landslide, to have another building fall, it can be, I think, depressing and hard on people who are trying their best to sort of start over again.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Now, you took some photographs while you were there. What about the people that are being sheltered?

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE:

    OK. The pictures that accompanied my stories were all taken by Matt McClain, Washington Post photographer.

    We worked very closely on this trip together. People had been pitching tents in the city.

    That was quite an experience to see how people were really scrambling, scrounging, finding scavenged bits of plastic and wood and brick and metal and making these amazing shelters for themselves, again, incredibly impressive.

    But many, many places, especially in rural areas, people are still literally sleeping outdoors on the ground around their villages, afraid to go back to the dwellings that have collapsed.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And, so, there was also another picture that was interesting. It was of someone burning a funeral pyre.

    I mean, it was something that you don't think of, what has to happen to all the bodies after the fact.

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE:

    Yes. And the culture of Nepal, which is Buddhist and Hindu, you know, they do have these ceremonies where they put the bodies on burning — burning pyres and they usually cover them with flowers and then burn them.

    And for the first several days after the quake, the main place where that is done in Kathmandu called Pashupati was — was just — it was an assembly line.

    It was very, very depressing to see, waiting lines for people to be — to be cremated by the river.

    It has slowed down now, but that's only in the capital. Most of the victims, if you add up the totals, were in rural areas. And it is harder to know what has happened there with the bodies.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Mm-hmm. And has the weather there improved right now? Or what is it like if people are sleeping outdoors in tents?

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE:

    It is much better. The first couple of days after the quake, there was a lot of rain and mud, and it was very uncomfortable.

    But everywhere we went over the past several days, both rural areas and in the capital, it was much nicer.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    So, what has the government response been like?

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE:

    It has been very mixed. You know, I have seen police and army everywhere we have been.

    They have been incredibly professional and helpful, really helped not only secure, but also rescuing people, finding people, helping them.

    There was one case where they actually brought a solar panel to a camp so that people could charge their cell phones, very impressive performance, especially by the national police.

    The civilian government is really — has really not done very well. There has been a lot of chaos.

    A lot of extra rules were put in place for customs to bring in aid. A lot of aid was really blocked at the main airport for a long time. There was infighting going on between political parties during this whole disaster.

    It is a little better now, but I think many people, Nepalis, have expressed a lot of disappointment in the politicians and the civilian leadership during this crisis.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, Pamela Constable of The Washington Post, thanks so much.

  • PAMELA CONSTABLE:

    You are very welcome.

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