Kathmandu: The death toll from Nepal's deadly earthquake has touched 4,347 and could go up to 10,000, making it the country's worst ever temblor, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala said on Tuesday.
Koirala's alarming assessment was conveyed to the envoy of India, China and the US as an army of Nepalese and foreigners worked feverishly to look for people who may still be buried under Saturday's debris.
But even as international aid poured into Kathmandu, with volunteers reaching some of the remotest parts of the landlocked nation, it became clear that the Saturday earthquake, 7.9 on the Richter scale, may turn out to be worse than the one that claimed over 8,000 lives in 1934.
A worried Koirala met the ambassadors of India and China Nepal's two largest neighbours as well as the US and said he feared the toll may be as high as 10,000, his media advisor Prakash Adhikari told IANS.
He said the figure was arrived at as nearly 4,400 people were already confirmed dead, many of the thousands of injured were critical and a large number of people were missing and may be dead.
More than 7,500 people have been injured in the quake. "It's a frightening situation," one official told IANS.
The dead include at least 10 foreigners from India, China, Australia, France and the US.
Nepal meanwhile grappled with an acute water scarcity. In Kathmandu, women and children holding plastic buckets and other utensils stood in queues at many places to take their share of water.
With thousands of houses destroyed or damaged beyond living, tens of thousands of men, women and children spent a third chilly night out in the open in Kathmandu.
Most have been in the same clothes they were in when they fled their homes on Saturday after the powerful earthquake hit the country.
Since then there have been countless aftershocks, sparking panic.
Many people use plastic sheets and cardboards to sleep on. Blankets have become a much sought after luxury, forcing the government to send out appeals to the international community to send more aid — and fast.
The home ministry said Kathmandu and Sindhupalchowk districts, among the worst hit, have reported 1,039 and 1,176 deaths respectively.
Rescuers, including from India, are engaged in massive operations in Kathmandu and other places. Hospitals are overwhelmed and treating many of the wounded in the open due to lack of space.
Some hospitals have reported cases of diarrhoea. Medical waste has also started accumulating in various hospitals, said Basudev Pandey at the main hospital at Patan, near Kathmandu.
He said several people from villages near Lalitpur, a nearby city, had also reported diarrhoea.
Water scarcity, lack of debris management and waste management have worsened the condition in Kathmandu's hospitals.
Power outages continued, crippling many ATMs. There are few vehicles on Kathmandu's streets. Food and other essential items are in short supply -- sparking anger and disaffection with the pace of relief work.