As the death toll from Nepal's worst earthquake in decades kept growing Monday, big questions remained about the extent of the devastation in rural areas. The destruction in Kathmandu, the capital, is stark: revered temples reduced to rubble, people buried in the wreckage of their homes, hospitals short on medical supplies and overflowing with patients. Serious damage is also reported in villages in the surrounding valley.
Nearly 3,900 people are known dead in Nepal, with more than 7,000 injured, according to Nepalese authorities. But farther out across Nepal's rugged landscape -- closer to the epicenter of Saturday's magnitude-7.8 quake -- the situation is disturbingly murky.
"Information about remote areas is severely lacking at this time," said Devendra Singh Tak, an official with Save the Children, noting that roads were blocked and communications unreliable.
Reports of 'total or near total destruction'
Patchy reports have filtered through of entire villages leveled by the quake or engulfed by landslides. "Some of the initial surveys that we're hearing of from the zones closer to the epicenter talk about total or near total destruction," said Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Tak, who is in Kathmandu, said that Save the Children and other aid groups were sending out teams Monday to more remote areas. The Nepalese government said it was flying helicopters to places it couldn't reach by road. "That's where one needs to get out and conduct rescue and relief," Tak said.
UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency, said Sunday that nearly 1 million Nepalese children urgently need assistance.
China, India, France, Italy, Britain, Canada, the United States, Australia, Taiwan, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Switzerland were among the nations sending aid and search and rescue crews.
Some heartening accounts of survivors being found emerged on Sunday, but hopes of finding many more people alive appeared to be fading as vital hours ticked by.
The death toll in Nepal has risen to 3,862, an official with Nepal's Home Affairs Ministry said Monday. Another 7,119 people have been injured, the official said.
Most of those numbers are believed to have come mainly from Kathmandu and the surrounding area. They are expected to rise further as information emerges from more remote areas.
India has reported 56 deaths, and China another 20, making the total death toll at least 3,938.