3 May 2015

Customs delaying Nepal quake aid - UN

10:07 pm on 3 May 2015

The United Nations has urged Nepal to relax customs controls which it says are holding up deliveries of aid to survivors of last week's earthquake.

An Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter pilot unloads relief aid in the village of Laprak.

An Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter pilot unloads relief aid in the village of Laprak. Photo: AFP

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said Nepal had a duty to provide faster customs clearance for relief supplies.

Many people are yet to receive the aid, which is piling up at Kathmandu airport following the 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

More than 7000 people have died and authorities have ruled out finding more survivors.

Nepal has banned large planes carrying relief supplies from landing at the international airport, after cracks appeared on the runway, reports the BBC.

Smaller craft are still permitted, but an official said unless action was taken Kathmandu Airport would be forced to close.

'Administrative issues'

On Saturday, Baroness Amos said she had reminded Prime Minister Sushil Koirala that Nepal had signed an agreement with the UN in 2007 for simpler and faster customs clearance for relief aid in a disaster.

"He has undertaken to ensure that happens, so I hope that from now we will see an improvement in those administrative issues," she told AFP.

EU commissioner Christos Stylianides (L) watches as UN's Valerie Amos addresses the media at the UN's headquarters in Kathmandu on 1 May.

EU commissioner Christos Stylianides (L) watches as UN's Valerie Amos addresses the media at the UN's headquarters in Kathmandu on 1 May. Photo: AFP

The UN representative in the country, Jamie McGoldrick, said the Nepalese government "should not be using peacetime customs methodology".

Nepal lifted import taxes on tarpaulins and tents on Friday but home ministry spokesman Laxmi Prasad Dhakal said all goods arriving from abroad had to be inspected.

"This is something we need to do," he said.

Rameshwor Dangal, of Nepal's National Disaster Management Division, said many people were waiting to receive emergency supplies or be airlifted to safety.

"In many areas people are not getting relief and it is natural that they are unhappy about it," he told AFP.

Nepalese people queue for relief aid from an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter team in northern-central Gorkha.

Nepalese people queue for relief aid from an IAF helicopter team in northern-central Gorkha. Photo: AFP

More than 14,021 people were injured in the quake which struck near Kathmandu.

Landslides and poor weather have hampered efforts to deliver aid to isolated districts, and there are only about 20 helicopters available for the rescue and relief operations.

Nepal has criticised both the speed of foreign aid deliveries the type of products countries are sending.

Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said: "We have received things like tuna fish and mayonnaise. What good are those things for us? We need grains, salt and sugar."

The fate of thousands of people in remote areas remains unknown.

The death toll could go up as search and rescue efforts continue in several hill districts including Dhading, Rasuwa and Sindhupalchok, the government has said.

While the vast majority of casualties were in Nepal, about 100 people are reported to have died in neighbouring India, China and Bangladesh.

-BBC

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