Relief for victims held up at customs: UN

Some of the relief material for survivors of Nepal’s devastating earthquake was being held up at the country’s only international airport because of customs bottlenecks, the United Nations said on Saturday, as the death toll from the disaster passed 6,600.

Nepal exempted tarpaulins and tents from import taxes on Friday, but UN Resident Representative Jamie McGoldrick told Reuters the government had to loosen customs restrictions further to deal with the increasing flow of relief material.“They should not be using peacetime customs methodology,” he said. Material was piling up at the Kathmandu airport instead of being ferried out to victims, McGoldrick said.

There was no immediate response from the government but Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat had appealed to international donors on Friday to send tents, tarpaulins and basic food supplies, saying some of the items received were of no use.

“We have received things like tuna fish and mayonnaise. What good are those things for us? We need grains, salt and sugar,” he told reporters.

Nepali government officials have said efforts to step up the pace of delivery of relief material to remote areas were frustrated by a shortage of supply trucks and drivers.

“Our granaries are full and we have ample food stock, but we are not able to transport supplies at a faster pace,” said Shrimani Raj Khanal, a manager at the Nepal Food Corp.

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