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Death Toll From Nepal Earthquake Crosses 5,000 as Rescue Teams Begin to Arrive at Remote Villages

Nepalese victims of the earthquake search for their belongings among debris of their homes in Bhaktapur, Nepal, on April 29, 2015. - David Ramos—Getty Images
Nepalese victims of the earthquake search for their belongings among debris of their homes in Bhaktapur, Nepal, on April 29, 2015. David Ramos—Getty Images

Periodic landslides and relentless rain continue to hamper rescue efforts

Rishi Khanal spent about 80 hours in a rubble-filled room with three dead bodies after the seven-story building he was in collapsed around him during Saturday’s massive earthquake in downtown Kathmandu. The 28-year-old was finally pulled out of the rubble on Tuesday, Reuters reports, by a Nepali-French rescue team combing the capital city for survivors.

“It seems he survived by sheer willpower,” said Akhilesh Shreshtha, a doctor who treated him, after it appeared that Khanal had no access to food or water for three days and escaped with nothing but a possible broken leg.

Khanal’s rescue was a heartening but rare story from the devastation in Nepal, where a 7.8-magnitude earthquake over the weekend killed more than 5,000 people. That toll is sure to rise significantly as rescue teams move away from Kathmandu, which they began to do early Wednesday, and reach devastated villages near the quake’s epicenter.

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Indian soldiers, left, on a rescue mission to Nepal rush to board an Indian Air Force aircraft near New Delhi on April 26, 2015. Altaf Qadri—AP
Plastic containers with drinking water are loaded into an Indian Air Force aircraft headed to Nepal, at a base near New Delhi on April 26, 2015. Altaf Qadri—AP
The shadow of an Indian Air Force aircraft carrying relief material is cast on clouds as it approaches landing in Kathmandu, Nepal, on April 27, 2015. Altaf Qadri—AP
Nepalese volunteers unload relief material, brought by an Indian Air Force helicopter for victims of Saturday's earthquake at Trishuli Bazar in Nepal on April 27, 2015. Altaf Qadri—AP
Nepalese soldiers unload relief material brought in by an Indian Air Force helicopter for victims of Saturday's earthquake at Trishuli Bazar in Nepal on April 27, 2015. Altaf Qadri—AP
Nepalese villagers watch as relief material is brought in by an Indian Air Force helicopter for victims of Saturday's earthquake at Trishuli Bazar in Nepal on April 27, 2015. Altaf Qadri—AP
Nepalese villagers injured in Saturday's earthquake await evacuation at Trishuli Bazar in Nepal on April 27, 2015. Altaf Qadri—AP
Nepalese soldiers carry a wounded man on a makeshift stretcher to an Indian Air Force helicopter as they evacuate victims of Saturday's earthquake from Trishuli Bazar to Kathmandu airport in Nepal on April 27, 2015. Altaf Qadri—AP
Nepalese victims of Saturday's earthquake lie inside an Indian Air Force helicopter as they are evacuated from Trishuli Bazar to Kathmandu airport in Nepal on April 27, 2015. Altaf Qadri—AP
An Indian Air Force member carries a Nepalese child, wounded in Saturday's earthquake, to a waiting ambulance as the mother rushes to join after they were evacuated from a remote area at the airport in Kathmandu on April 27, 2015. Altaf Qadri—AP
Victims of Saturday's earthquake wait for ambulances to take them to hospitals after being evacuated at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, on April 27, 2015. Altaf Qadri—AP
A man sits with a child on his lap as victims of Saturday's earthquake wait for ambulances after being evacuated at the airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, on April 27, 2015. Altaf Qadri—AP

Nepalese Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said the total number of lives lost could ultimately exceed 10,000. “The government is doing all it can for rescue and relief on a war footing,” Koirala told Reuters. “It is a challenge and a very difficult hour for Nepal.”

More than 450,000 people have reportedly been displaced from their homes. As international aid teams from countries like India, China, Pakistan, the U.S., Israel and several others arrive and commence operations, there is also growing concern about the spread of disease and lack of food and water in rural areas.

MORE: 6 More Ways You Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

“The situation is much more worrying in those districts,” Samuel Marie-Fanon, the regional rapid-response coordinator for the European Commission’s humanitarian aid and civil protection department, told the Washington Post. “The big rains have started, and all this week people are sleeping in the open. There is an obvious need for shelter and tents or tarpaulins. The priorities are water, food and, of course, medical assistance.”

Periodic landslides and relentless rain continue to hamper rescue efforts in districts like Sindupalchowk, about 50 miles from Kathmandu and one of the worst-affected areas. Houses in the district have been completely destroyed, the Post reported, with nothing but heaps of rubble piled over bodies.

The Post also wrote about Ratna Kumari Shreshtha, an elderly woman brought to Kathmandu after being rescued from Sindupalchowk. She expressed the grief and helplessness sweeping the country.

“No houses left, no houses left,” the paper quoted her as saying. “Everything is finished.”

Read next: International Aid to Nepal Ramps Up

Dharahara Tower in Kathmandu on Oct. 25, 2014. Courtesy of DigitalGlobe
Dharahara Tower in Kathmandu on April 27, 2015. Courtesy of DigitalGlobe
Tundikhel, one of Kathmandu's most important landmarks, in the center of the city on Oct. 25, 2014. Courtesy of DigitalGlobe
Tundikhel on April 27, 2015. Courtesy of DigitalGlobe
Kathmandu on Oct. 25, 2014. Courtesy of DigitalGlobe
Kathmandu on April 27, 2015. Courtesy of DigitalGlobe
The Vatsala Durga temple in Bhaktapur on Oct. 25, 2014. Courtesy of DigitalGlobe
The Vatsala Durga temple in Bhaktapur on April 27, 2015. Courtesy of DigitalGlobe
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