KATHMANDU, Nepal — Maj. Jason Laird lifts the Boeing V-22 Osprey up through thick, blinding clouds heading eastward, where neatly terraced hills along a lush mountainside are pockmarked by evidence of landslides and the homes they brought down with them.
To his right, he and other members of the U.S. Marines delivering aid can peer down to a valley sprinkled with bright orange dots, the plastic sheeting nearly everyone in Nepal has been sleeping under since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck two weeks ago.
Nearly 600,000 homes were destroyed, 7,900 people killed, and more than 16,000 injured. The death toll is rising as search missions continue to find bodies of natives and tourists in hard to reach trekking areas. Aftershocks are still occurring on a daily basis, so people are sleeping in tents to avoid the risk of not making it out of their homes in time, as was the fate that befell so many here.
“Visibility in the Himalayas is challenging,” Laird notes, an understatement given the conditions on this overcast day. Still, it’s the clearest day he’s had since Marines began airlifting aid supplies across this battered country on May 4.