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Nepal's Hospitals Swamped as Quake Toll Rises, Aftershocks Rattle

Overwhelmed doctors moved hundreds of patients onto the streets of Nepal's capital on Sunday when aftershocks rattled already damaged hospitals.
/ Source: NBC News

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Overwhelmed doctors moved hundreds of patients onto the streets of Nepal's capital on Sunday when aftershocks rattled hospitals and buildings already damaged by an earthquake that devastated Kathmandu valley.

More than 3,200 people are known dead so far, according to Nepal's Interior Ministry and national police.

Sick and wounded people lay on a dusty road outside Kathmandu Medical College while hospital workers carried more patients out of the building on stretchers and sacks.

Doctors set up an operating theater inside a tent and rushed in the most critical, following a particularly big tremor that sent people running terrified into the streets.

The aftershock, itself a strong 6.7 magnitude quake, triggered more avalanches in the Himalayas after Saturday's 7.9 quake — which unleashed Everest's worst disaster and was the strongest since 1934 when 8,500 people were killed.

Outside the National Trauma Center in Kathmandu, patients in wheelchairs who had been under treatment before the earthquake hit joined hundreds of injured with fractured and bloody limbs, who lay inside tents made from hospital sheets.

"We only have one operation theater here. To be able to provide immediate treatment we require 15 theaters. I am just not able to cope," said Dipendra Pandey, an orthopedic surgeon, adding he had done 36 critical operations since Saturday.

Patients wait at the parking lot of Norvic International Hospital after an earthquake hit Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, April 25, 2015. A powerful, magnitude-7.8 earthquake shook Nepal's capital and the densely populated Kathmandu Valley before noon Saturday, collapsing houses, leveling centuries-old temples and cutting open roads in the worst temblor in the Himalayan nation in over 80 years.Binaj Gurubacharya / AP

Relief agencies and officials said most hospitals were overflowing and short on medical supplies.

"Both private and government hospitals have run out of space and are treating patients outside, in the open," said Nepal's envoy to India, Deep Kumar Upadhyay.

Neighboring countries sent in military transport planes laden with medical supplies, food and water. But little sign of organized relief efforts was visible as aid agencies struggled to fly helicopters in cloudy weather, aftershocks forced the intermittent closure of Kathmandu airport and roads were blocked by landslides.

Meanwhile a plane carrying the first 15 climbers injured on Everest arrived in Kathmandu around noon local time. One, Gelu Sherpa, said: "There is a lot of confusion on the mountain. The toll will rise."

The bodies of 17 climbers were recovered from the mountain, where the big aftershock sent boulders and ice crashing around camps in the high mountains.

It hit as Indian climber Arjun Vajpai spoke to Reuters over the phone from Makalu base camp near Everest.

"Another one, we have an aftershock right now. Oh sh-t!" he shouted. "Avalanche!"

Screams and the roar of crashing snow could be heard over the line as he spoke.

With Nepal's government overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster, India flew in medical supplies and members of its National Disaster Response Force, while China sent in a 60-strong emergency team. Pakistan's army said was sending four C-130 aircraft with a 30-bed hospital, search and rescue teams and relief supplies.


— Reuters