CHARIKOT, Nepal — Thousands of villagers crowded the streets of this small Himalayan town Thursday, demanding government help after Nepal suffered its second major quake in less than three weeks. And while there have been occasional food handouts here, there was nowhere near enough supplies distributed for all the people who kept arriving.
“We came here with such hopes and such difficulty, but now we’re just waiting and waiting,” said Navraj Nama, 25, who came to Charikot with his brother and elderly uncle after the second earthquake hit Nepal on Tuesday. He said 90 percent of their home village, Danda Khorka, had been damaged in the April 25 quake, and about 50 of those buildings had collapsed when the second one hit.
The past three weeks have been misery for Nepal. A magnitude-7.8 earthquake killed more than 8,150 people, injured tens of thousands more and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Then, just as the country was beginning to rebuild, a magnitude-7.3 earthquake battered it again, killing at least 96 people and injuring more than 2,300.
A search also continued Thursday for a U.S. Marine helicopter carrying six Marines and two Nepalese soldiers. It went missing Tuesday while delivering aid in the country’s northeast, U.S. officials said.
Normally a placid town of perhaps 10,000 people, Charikot is the administrative center of the worst-hit district in Tuesday’s earthquake, making it the obvious place for residents of the many small surrounding villages to go for help. By Thursday morning, thousands of additional people were living there, nearly all of them too afraid to sleep indoors.
The Nepal Army had set up a small aid distribution center, but supplies were limited there and the center was rarely open. So people simply waited at the locked gates, shaking the fence angrily when their frustration got the better of them.
“After the first quake, we were not prepared for a second one so big,” Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told reporters after arriving here by helicopter for a briefing from officials.
He said the coming monsoon rains loomed largely over the country, with hundreds of thousands of people left homeless.
“We need tents. Our people need shelter. With the rainy season, it will be difficult for people to survive in the open,” he said.
Nama’s village is among those in desperate need of shelter, and the young farmer came to Charikot hoping to get tents or tarpaulins to carry back with him. But none were available.
There is also a shortage of tarps and tents in the Nepalese capital, with some people even using cardboard boxes as temporary shelters.
“We have nowhere to go. This is our home for now. We had just moved back into our rented rooms and again the earthquakes are back,” Raj Kumar, a carpenter who was sharing a small tent with two other families, said in Kathmandu.
Earlier, army teams using power drills, saws and their bare hands unearthed the body of a woman killed in Charikot on Tuesday when a building collapsed around her. The smell was overwhelming as they pulled out the body, and the soldiers quickly sprayed the rubble with a strong disinfectant.
The most recent quake hit hardest in deeply rural parts of the Himalayan foothills, hammering many villages reached only by hiking trails and causing road-blocking landslides.
“Damaged houses were further damaged or destroyed. Houses and schools building spared before were affected … roads were damaged,” said Jamie McGoldrick, a top U.N. official in Nepal.
Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday that the U.S. aerial search for the Marine helicopter had found “nothing of note.”
He said that in addition to U.S. aircraft, the U.S. has redirected some satellites to assist in the search. Officials in Kathmandu said the search was focused on the Sunkhani area, nearly 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of the capital.
The U.S. Geological Survey said Tuesday’s earthquake was the largest aftershock of the April quake. But it was significantly less powerful and occurred deeper in the Earth.
Associated Press writers Binaj Gurubacharya in Kathmandu, Tim Sullivan in New Delhi and Robert Burns in Washington contributed to this report.