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KATHMANDU, Nepal — Up to 15,000 people may have died in the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal over the weekend, the country's army chief told NBC News in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
The official death toll from Saturday's 7.8-magnitude quake quake currently stands at 5,800.
"Our estimates are not looking good. We are thinking that 10,000 to 15,000 may be killed," said Gen. Gaurav Rana, who is leading the nationwide rescue effort.
Rana acknowledged that massive temblor left officials struggling to cope with the aftermath — including the risk of disease and growing public anger at the pace of the rescue effort.
"There is unrest, and we are watching it. Yes, there is the threat of an epidemic, and we are watching it," he said.
Rana said he understood how many people "would be angry" about the government's response, stressing that the army was working with the police to "identify local hot spots and control things [politically]."
On Wednesday, hundreds of Nepalis protested outside parliament to demand the government boost the number of buses going to the interior hills and improve aid distribution. The official search and rescue effort has also been widely criticized in the press.
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