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On Saturday, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake ripped through Nepal. Three days later, aid workers are scrambling across the country to rescue survivors and care for the wounded.

News emerging from the devastated country is grim. As of this morning, The Guardian reported that the death toll has climbed to 3,815. The BBC has placed the figure above 4,000, and one aid worker has said he fears it could reach as high as 15,000. Dozens of casualties have been reported in neighboring China and India.

On Mount Everest, around 200 climbers have been stranded by avalanches caused by the quake. At least 18 have been killed. Evacuation is proceeding slowly, as the altitude and the freezing temperatures prevent helicopters from carrying more than two people at a time. Tulsi Gautam, the chief of Nepal’s tourism agency, has said about 60 climbers have been rescued so far.

The earthquake that leveled San Francisco in 1906 was also a magnitude 7.8. Unfortunately, Nepal’s weak infrastructure and dense population have multiplied the damage wrought, and it is believed that the worst news has still yet to be reported.  

As the American Geophysical Union explained in 2010, “The biggest impacts are often in rural areas with the highest levels of shaking.” These areas usually have poor communication capacity to begin with and may lose all contact with the outside world.  

Matt Darvas, a spokesman for aid agency World Vision, told the BBC that one villager told him more than 1,000 of the homes in his village had been destroyed. Darvas added that entire villages of similar size could have been buried by rock falls. Western Nepal is remote and mountainous and has yet to be reached by rescue teams.

The earthquake’s epicenter occurred in Gorkha district, where 70 percent of the houses have allegedly been destroyed.

Aid is being sent in from China, India, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the UK, but Nepal is still asking for more. Lakshmi Prasad Dhakal told the BBC that nine out of 10 Nepalese troops are currently involved in search and rescue operations.

For the last three days, survivors have been gathering in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, and sleeping in tents or whatever standing structures are available. Not all survivors have been displaced, but many fear that their homes are unsafe to return to. Aftershocks are still being reported in the country.  

Kathmandu’s camps and tent cities are running short on water, food and electricity, and survivors fear the spread of waterborne and infectious diseases. Already, one Indian relief flight has been turned away from Kathmandu’s airport due to congestion.

Planet Experts will continue to report on this story as it develops.

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