KATHMANDU, April 30
When thousands rushed to New Baneshwor to catch the busses arranged to take them to their respective destinations outside the Valley on Wednesday, security personnel were asking them to use masks in crowded areas.
More than the panic over tremors, people are leaving the Valley for fear of outbreak of diseases. At this time, the authorities are focused raising awareness on the possible causes of contagious diseases, officials said.
“Many people believe rumors that Kathmandu is already facing an epidemic outbreak. This is blatantly falses,” said Dr Baburam Marasini, director at the Epidemiology and Diseases Control Division (EDCD).
But the massive number of fatalities caused by the earthquake four days ago increases the risk of an outbreak, doctors warned.
“Thousands have been killed on at once; we can’t trust the government when they say there is no chance of any epidemic breakout,” said Ranjit Karna, who was heading for his home in Sarlahi, Wednesday.
CREMATION OF DEAD
As many as 1,459 dead bodies have been recovered in the Valley. Only 488 of these people have been cremated at Pashupati Aryaghat as of Wednesday afternoon.
Member Secretary of Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) Govind Tondon said that most bodies have been brought to Aryaghat as people are performing their rites close by due to a lack of transportation.
“Bodies from Bhaktapur and Lalitpur don’t really come here whereas people in Kathmandu are also looking for other places as they are aware of the difficulties we face in coping with the number of cremations,” Tondon said.
Most of the bodies have been brought by relatives. Twenty-five unclaimed bodies were also cremated after the Nepal Police brought them to Aryaghat, Tondon added.
Taking about the hazards arising out of the mismanagement of the dead, EDCD Director Marasini claimed that the authorities are keeping a close vigilance over riversides and other open spaces to prevent them being dumping sites for corpses.
Local authorities and security agencies are working in coordination with public health officials to avert any dumping of dead bodies. The local authorities in Bhaktapur and Lalitpur have also been directed to keep an eye to ensure the proper disposal of the bodies.
“Till now, no cases of the dumping of bodies have come to our attention,” claimed Dr Marasini. With hospitals keeping the unclaimed bodies in mortuaries, he dismissed the notion that these bodies pose a health risk. “The hospitals are equipped with space to store large numbers of unclaimed bodies until their cremation,” he added.
Bir Hospital, where hundreds of bodies have been brought, has managed to cope till now, according to Bir’s Director Dr Swayam Prakash Pandit. Meanwhile, seven bodies lay uncovered on the ground at the hospital premises till Tuesday when they were transported to the mortuary at Teaching Hospital, Maharajgunj.
Since the metropolis stopped collecting hospital waste a year ago, the hospitals are responsible for the safe disposal of their waste themselves.
“The waste management unit at the hospital premise is capable of managing the hospital waste even with current demands,” claimed Dr Pandit. KMC officials further said that hospitals are managing the medical wastes by themselves.
The KMC, responsible for managing the garbage produced by the Capital, resumed garbage collection on Wednesday after the earthquake forced them to halt their work.
The KMC collected 250 tons of garbage from open spaces on Wednesday where thousands of displaced people are sheltering. Student volunteers have supported the authority’s efforts to maintain hygienic conditions.
WATER CRISIS AND OPEN DEFECATION
Residents of the various camps situated around the capital are facing water shortages.
At Koteshwor, hundreds of people have been residing on the premises of the air security unit of Nepal Army where only limited supplies of water have arrived. Similarly, the lack of toilets is another problem settlers are facing.
“We were using the public toilet built nearby the Koteshwor traffic office paying Rs 10 before, but it’s jammed now,’ said Jhalak Shakya, 40 who lives in a tent on the premises with his seven family members.
As the army has only built a few latrines, all the people staying there go out to the streets while other’s defecate in the open, said Shakya. His rented flat at Jadibuti was damaged by the earthquake, making it impossible for him and his family to live there safely. At the same time, the news of the collapse of his house in Sindhupalchowk district left him with no place to go.
“We have heard of the relief packages coming from several countries, but here we haven’t received even water to drink,” said Shakya.
The situation is the same at Tinkune ground where around two dozen tents houses many who have fled from their respective districts, fearing more tremors, disease outbreak and price inflation said Deepa Bhattarai. She has been living with her eight family members inside a tiny leaking tent.
“In the last four days, only one organization with a jar of water has come,” said Bhattarai, who set up the tent here after her rented home in Koteshwor, Mahadevsthan was damaged by the quake. People settling here are defecating openly at the eastern corner of the Tinkune ground.
The KMC spread bleaching powder and phenyl among other disinfectants on the parts of Tundikhel Park.
In Tundikhel alone, over 8000 people depend on only four temporary toiltes while a mobile toilet was available till Tuesday, forcing people to defecate in the open.
Realizing the possible threat of the outbreak of water borne disease such as diarrhea, dysentery and cholera, dozens of youths have joined together in an effort to prevent the outbreak of disease.
Butterfly artist Milan Rai, along with a few friends decided to build temporary toilets for the men and women staying at Tundikhel to alleviate the pressure on the four latrines. Around 40 toilets have been built so far. Nepal Army officials deployed at the site supported the initiatives by providing materials to set up the temporary toilets, said Lit Bhimsen Chaulagain.
In case of the spread of water borne diseases, the government is prepared to bring the situation under control, claimed Dr Marasini.
“The EDCD is well prepared in the case as disease is reported in the temporary camps in the Valley,” said Marasini.
RISK OF EPIDEMIC BREAKOUT FROM
- Mismanagement of dead bodies (human and animals)
- Delays in unearthing bodies from rubble
- Use of impure drinking water and open defecation
- Hospital waste mismanagement
- Regular garbage uncollected from the affected area
- Mass gathering