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KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal's government urged foreign rescue workers in the quake-hit capital to return home Monday as hundreds of people visited Buddhist shrines and monasteries to mark the birthday of Gautam Buddha.
Information Minister Minendra Rijal said the major rescue work in Kathmandu and surrounding areas has been completed and that the remaining operations can be handled by local workers. However, work remained in the villages and remote mountain areas, and foreign-aid volunteers could work with local police and army rescuers in those areas, he said.
Since the April 25 earthquake, 4,050 rescue workers from 34 different nations have flown to Nepal to help in rescue operations, provide emergency medical care and distribute food and other necessities. The death toll from the quake reached 7,276, police said.
At the Swayambhunath shrine, located atop a hill overlooking Kathmandu, hundreds of people chanted prayers as they walked around the hill where the white iconic stupa with its gazing eyes are located. Some of the structures around the stupa, built in the 5th century, were damaged in the April 25 magnitude 7.8 quake. Police blocked off the steep steps to the top of the shrine, also called "Monkey temple" because of the many monkeys who live on its slopes.
"I am praying for peace for the thousands of people who were killed," said Santa Lama, a 60-year-old woman. "I hope there will be peace and calm in the country once again and the worst is over."
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