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Bad weather disrupts links with avalanche-hit Nepal village

KATHMANDU: Bad weather has cut links with a remote village in Nepal where dozens of villagers and trekkers are believed to be buried under an avalanche set off by last month’s devastating earthquake, officials said on Tuesday.

The death toll from the April 25 earthquake in the Himalayan nation has reached 7,557, the government said.

About 100 bodies were recovered on Saturday and Sunday at Langtang village, 60 km (37 miles) north of Kathmandu, which is on a trekking route popular with Westerners. The entire village, which includes 55 guesthouses for trekkers, was wiped out by the avalanche and rescuers are digging in the snow for signs of about 120 others believed buried.

Gautam Rimal, assistant chief district officer in the area where Langtang is located, said authorities had not made contact with Langtang for more 24 hours because of bad weather.

“We hope to send a rescue helicopter today (Tuesday) to the area,” he said. “We’ll know the situation then.”

The dead include at least seven foreigners, but only two had been identified, he said.

The government has begun asking foreign teams to wrap up search and rescue operations as hopes of finding people alive in the rubble receded.

“They can leave. If they are also specialists in clearing the rubble, they can stay,” Rameshwor Dangal, an official at Nepal’s home ministry, told Reuters on Monday.

EVEREST ROUTE DAMAGED

A European Union source said only about 60 citizens from the 28-nation bloc were still unaccounted for. Last week a senior EU official had estimated around 1,000 EU citizens were missing after the quake.

The number is “going down by the hour” as rescue teams reach remoter areas, the EU source said.

A U.S. State Department spokesman said helicopters chartered by the embassy in Kathmandu had rescued 17 U.S. citizens in total from remote areas hit by the quake. The United States has provided $14.2 million in humanitarian aid since the quake.

The government has said it has not closed Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, to climbers, although the route to the summit has been damaged by the earthquake. At least 18 people were killed on Everest when the earthquake struck.

Climbers pay $11,000 each to climb Everest, and 357 were registered for this climbing season. Last year, the government extended permits when teams abandoned their expeditions after an avalanche killed 16 Sherpa mountain guides.

The United Nations has said 8 million of Nepal’s 28 million people were affected by the quake, with at least 2 million needing tents, water, food and medicines over the next three months.

The United Nations Children’s Fund said more than half a million children were being vaccinated to prevent measles outbreaks. Around 1.7 million children remain in urgent need of humanitarian aid in the worst-hit areas, it added.

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