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Quake-hit Nepal closes its only international airport to big jets

3 May 2015 16:09



Nepal has shut its only international airport to big airplanes bringing in relief supplies and aid workers to help the survivors of last week’s devastating earthquake.

On Sunday, earthquake-stricken Nepal was forced to close Tribhuwan International Airport, located on the outskirts of the capital, Kathmandu, as the runway cannot handle the strain of the stream of large aircraft flying in on humanitarian missions or carrying incoming journalists.

Birendra Shrestha, the manager of the airport, said bigger planes were banned because the runway was deteriorating.

He added that the runway can handle only medium-size jetliners and not large military and cargo planes.

There have been reports of cracks on the runway and other problems at the airport.

The airport has parking slots for only nine jets and only one runway.

Death toll tops 7,000

According to Nepalese officials, the death toll from last weekend’s massive earthquake has exceeded 7,000.

A man walks past debris near a historical heritage site in the capital, Kathmandu, May 3, 2015. (© AFP)

National police officer Babu Kanji Giri said Sunday that some 7,040 people lost their lives in the devastating earthquake.

According to the country’s Home Ministry, 14,123 people were also injured in the quake; 6,512 of them are being treated in hospitals.

Foreign fatalities

The number of the foreigners killed in the tremor is unclear, but around a thousand European citizens are still unaccounted for.

A senior local official said Sunday that police have found more than 50 bodies, including those of six foreigners, in Nepal’s popular Langtang trekking region.

“We have pulled out 51 bodies from the Langtang area so far, six of them are tourists. We estimate that about 100 foreigners might still be missing in the area,” Uddav Prasad Bhattarai, the chief officer of Rasuwa district, said.

The 7.8-magnitude quake also triggered a deadly avalanche on Mount Everest, which killed 18 people, including foreign climbers.

Nepal’s tourism department chief Tulsi Gautam said Sunday that, so far, the bodies of 54 foreigners have been retrieved nationwide.

Nepalese soldiers walk at a historical heritage site in the capital, Kathmandu, May 3, 2015. (© AFP)

Search and rescue operations are still underway, with little hope for finding any more survivors. The last person found alive was pulled out from under rubble on Thursday evening.

Meanwhile, the displaced are being vaccinated against measles as a slow flow of relief supplies to mountainous areas has raised fears of an outbreak of the disease.

The United Nations has urged Nepal’s government to relax customs controls, which it says are preventing the delivery of vital relief supplies for survivors.

The UN says the quake has affected more than a quarter of Nepal’s 28 million people.

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