KATHMANDU, Nepal – As the death toll from Nepal’s devastating earthquake climbed past 4,000, aid workers and officials in remote, shattered villages near the epicenter pleaded Monday for food, shelter and medicine.
Help poured in after Saturday’s magnitude-7.8 quake, with countries large and small sending medical and rescue teams, aircraft and basic supplies. The small airport in the capital of Kathmandu was congested and chaotic, with some flights forced to turn back.
Buildings in parts of the city were reduced to rubble, and there were shortages of food, fuel, electricity and shelter.
As bodies were recovered, relatives cremated the dead along the Bagmati River, and at least a dozen pyres burned into the night.
"I’ve watched hundreds of bodies burn," said Rajendra Dhungana, 34, who spent Sunday with his niece’s family for her cremation at the temple, Nepal’s most revered.
Conditions were far worse in the countryside, with rescue workers still struggling to reach mountain villages two days after the earthquake.
Some roads and trails to the Gorkha district, where the quake was centered, were blocked by landslides – but also by traffic jams that regularly clog the route north of Kathmandu.
"There are people who are not getting food and shelter. I’ve had reports of villages where 70 percent of the houses have been destroyed," said Udav Prashad Timalsina, the top official for the Gorkha region.
World Vision aid worker Matt Darvas arrived in the district in the afternoon and said almost no assistance had reached there ahead of him.
Newer concrete buildings were intact, Darvas said, but some villages were reported to be devastated. He cited a "disturbing" report from the village of Singla, where up to 75 percent of the buildings may have collapsed and there has been no contact since Saturday night.
Nepal’s Home Ministry said the country’s death toll had risen to 4,010. Another 61 were killed in neighboring India, and China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported 25 dead in Tibet.
At least 7,180 people were injured in the quake, police said. Tens of thousands are estimated to be left homeless.
Rescue workers and medical teams from at least a dozen countries were helping police and army troops in Kathmandu and surrounding areas, said Maj. Gen. Binod Basnyat, a Nepal army spokesman.
Two teams of U.S. Army Green Beret soldiers happened to be in Nepal when the quake struck, and the 26 Americans – who were training with the Nepalese army – are staying to help with search-and-relief efforts.
Well over 1,000 of the victims were in Kathmandu, where security forces and Indian rescue teams continued to recover the dead.
The earthquake destroyed swaths of the oldest neighborhoods in the capital, largely a collection of small, poorly constructed brick apartment buildings. Many people were surprised by how few modern structures had collapsed.
Some pharmacies and shops opened Monday, and bakeries began offering fresh bread. Huge lines of people desperate for fuel appeared outside gasoline pumps. At one station, dozens sat waiting on motorcycles.
Meanwhile, daring helicopter pilots ferried dozens of stranded climbers to relative safety from the uppermost reaches of Mount Everest.
Clear weather Monday helped three helicopter pilots working in rotation to airlift climbers, two by two, from Camps 1 and 2 – which are both above 21,000 feet – down to base camp.
At least 19 people – including four Americans – were killed on Everest when a massive avalanche triggered by the earthquake slammed into hundreds of tents at base camp. At least 61 people were injured.
The Washington Post contributed to this story.