Nepali villagers blocked trucks carrying supplies for earthquake victims on Wednesday, demanding the government do more to help after last week’s disaster left more than 5,200 people dead and tens of thousands homeless and short of food and water.
In the capital Kathmandu, about 200 people protested outside parliament, asking for more buses to go to their homes in remote parts of the Himalayan nation and to hasten the distribution of aid that has flooded into the country but been slow to reach those in need.
In Sangachowk village in one of the worst-hit districts, about three hours by road from the capital, scores of angry villagers blocked the road with tires.
They stopped two trucks headed for the district capital with rice, noodles and biscuits. Later they blocked a convoy of three army trucks with relief supplies, leading to a tense standoff with armed soldiers.
“We have been given no food by the government,” said Udhav Giri, 34. “Trucks carrying rice go past and don’t stop. The district headquarters is getting all the food.”
An official from Nepal’s home ministry said the number of confirmed deaths had risen to 5,238 by Wednesday night. Almost 10,350 were injured in Nepal, and more than 80 were also killed in India and Tibet.
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala has said the death toll could reach 10,000, with information on casualties and damage from far-flung villages and towns yet to come in.
That would surpass the 8,500 who died in a 1934 earthquake, the last disaster on this scale to hit the Himalayan nation of 28 million people located between India and China.
However, there were signs on Wednesday that Kathmandu was slowly returning to normal. Some people prepared to head home to sleep after spending the last four nights in the open out of fear their damaged homes may not be able to withstand aftershocks.
Some street vendors started selling fruit in the city, but others said they were too scared to open shops because buildings had been so badly damaged.
“I want to start selling, I have children at home, but how can I open a shop where it is risky for me to sit inside?” said Arjun Rai, a 54-year-old who runs a general store.
In some mountainous areas, the government has struggled to deliver aid. Rescue helicopters have had problems landing at some sites.
Shambhu Khatri, a technician on board one of the helicopters, said entire hillsides had collapsed in parts of the Gorkha district, burying settlements, and access was almost impossible.