Nepalese Village, Devastated by Quake, Is Left to Cope as International Attention Shifts[courtesy: The New York Times, Acia Pacific]

Bodies last weekend in Langtang, where hundreds are still missing. “We are trying our best to find a whole body, or parts of the body,” a local police official said. Credit Reuters

KATHMANDU, Nepal — There was an unearthly quiet on Friday in Langtang, where the remains of as many as 300 people are believed to be buried under 20 feet of rock and ice that sheared off a mountain during the earthquake that hit Nepal two weeks ago.

Gone were most of the international search teams that had been working their way through the debris — the drones, the American Special Forces, the Israeli military. Instead, there was early-morning silence and evidence of an immense blast of air: On the ridge opposite the landslide, rows and rows of sturdy trees had been stripped of their foliage and laid flat against the ground, pointing uphill.

On the valley floor were traced ghostly outlines of stone walls, all that remains of dozens of guesthouses that were scraped off the ground by a thundering wall of ice and rock and earth. That mass, which one eyewitness described as “a swath of white,” is now black. Though 91 bodies were retrieved from Langtang early on, according to the police, officials say that in recent days search teams have been finding only fragments: bits of clothing and pieces of bodies.

“Families think that maybe some people are hiding somewhere in the jungle; they are telling me this type of thing, but I don’t think there is any possibility to find any life here,” said Pravin Pokharel, the deputy superintendent of police in the district of Rasuwa, which includes Langtang.

“We are trying our best to find a whole body, or parts of the body,” he said.

By Friday, the death toll nationally from the April 25 earthquake had risen to 7,904, with 15,935 injured, according to Nepal’s Ministry of Home Affairs. Relief teams were still struggling to reach people in isolated villages to provide shelter and medical care before monsoon rains arrive, typically in late May. International news crews have, for the most part, headed home.

Some aid workers said they were worried that donors’ attention had already strayed from Nepal. An initial request to donor nations by the United Nations for $423 million for the first three months of aid has yielded only $22.4 million so far, according to a spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“We have three months when everything can happen,” Maurizio Busatti, chief of mission for the International Organization for Migration in Nepal, said in an interview. “That will make the difference between the true recovery — a family that will start planting, and find shelter better than a tarpaulin — and the risk that this doesn’t happen, which means more people depending on handouts.”

Few villages sustained worse damage than Langtang, whose guesthouses have long been a popular stop with international backpackers. Jofre Juangran, a helicopter pilot who has been ferrying aid workers to remote posts, looked down on Friday at the bare ground of the valley.

“Only one house,” he said. “There was a village here.”

Mr. Pokharel, the police official, said the authorities were struggling to determine how many people were in the village at the time of the avalanche. As many as 260 tourists are thought to be missing. Austin Lord, 30, a U.S. Fulbright scholar in Nepal, said a festive crowd had gathered in the village the night before the earthquake for a traditional funeral ceremony.

“They danced all night,” he said. “It was beautiful and people were singing and it was hundreds of people.”

Trekkers who left Langtang that morning described being hit by such a powerful blast that they clung to each other, or to trees, to avoid being buried. Mr. Lord, who was around three miles from Langtang, said the sky darkened and air pressure seemed to be forced downward into the valley, creating a “super-dense torrential downpour in addition to debris and dust and boulders coming down from both sides.” When that subsided, he joined people from local villages who ran back to get a better view. They glimpsed the “giant white swath of the avalanche,” he said, and people began to wail.

“Then we had confirmation of what we already assumed,” said Mr. Lord, who has founded an organization to collect aid for residents of the district. “Everybody was just saying, ‘Langtang, sabai gayo,’ which means, Langtang is all gone.”

Aftershocks shook the valley in the following days, and when the first helicopters arrived to evacuate people, they were met by a desperate crowd. A group of unharmed foreign tourists lept onto the first helicopter that arrived, two days after the earthquake, only to be stopped by Nepalis who insisted the flight be used to evacuate the wounded, including a child with two broken legs, Brigida Martinez, who was there at the time, said in an interview from San Diego.

Kat Heldman, who was traveling with Ms. Martinez, said she cannot shake the memory of the people she met in Langtang, which she left about four hours before the earthquake buried it.

“Right before we hiked out, I saw these three little boys, and I asked, ‘Can I take your picture?’ And the little boy said, ‘No photo, no photo,’ and I said, ‘No problem,’ ” she said. “And then a minute later, he said, ‘Yes, photo,’ and I took some pictures.

“Now I’m pretty sure they’re gone,” she said. “It’s very surreal.”

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