US choppers begin Nepal quake reconnaissance flights

2015-05-04 19:57
(Niranjan Shrestha, AP)

(Niranjan Shrestha, AP)

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Kathmandu - US military helicopters began reconnaissance trips on Monday to assess remote areas of Nepal devastated by an earthquake that killed more than 7 300 people, an official said.

Nine days after a 7.8-magnitude quake brought death and destruction to the Himalayan nation, the helicopters surveyed mountain villages.

Four tilt-rotor Ospreys have also arrived in Nepal.

"Only the 'Hueys' [helicopters] have gone out so far for reconnaissance flights to try to identify areas in need of relief. No Ospreys have been out," a US embassy official told AFP on Monday.

The Ospreys and a US Air Force C-17 aircraft touched down in the capital Kathmandu on Sunday.

"They'll have multiple aims. They'll be delivering relief supplies, they might do some rescues, they'll also do assessments," US ambassador Peter W Bodde told reporters.

"They're going to make an immediate difference," said US Brigadier General Paul Kennedy.

A Nepalese official said the US aircraft would also airlift victims out of remote areas which suffered some of the worst devastation following the April 25 quake.

"They are also assisting any casualties in mostly the eastern side of Nepal... places worst hit like Sindhupalchowk, Gorkha area," Surya Prasad Silwal, the home ministry secretary, told AFP.

He said later that some foreign rescue teams had been asked to leave "now that there is no chance of any survivors".

"As per general practice, foreign teams do not handle or are not willing to handle dead bodies... They will be given a grace period to wind up and then they will leave automatically," he told AFP.

While the official death toll for Nepal rose to 7 365 on Monday, with some 14 000 injured, authorities warned the final tally would be much higher. More than 100 people were also killed in neighbouring India and China.

Nepal police spokesperson Kamal Singh Bam said 57 foreigners were known to have died while 112 were still missing. Many were in the popular Langtang trekking region north of Kathmandu when the quake struck.

"A few foreigner bodies were taken to Kathmandu from Langtang yesterday [Sunday]. According to villagers there, they say many other foreigners may have been buried and killed in the landslide," the spokesperson said.

Read more on:    nepal  |  nepal earthquake

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