KATHMANDU, Nepal — Earthquake-struck Nepal has been forced to close its international airport to large planes after its runway sustained damage from the influx of flights delivering aid, officials said Sunday.
The past week has seen a procession of big jets flying in goods and relief workers, as well as a swarm of journalists, but the small airport only has one runway and parking slots for just nine jets.
A Nepalese official told NBC that planes weighing over 196 tons were being told not to land at the Tribhuwan International Airport, located on Kathmandu’s outskirts.
“The notice [was] issued after technically assessing that the overuse of the runway by unscheduled flights is damaging it,” Hari Odiani, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told NBC News.“The runway is taking three times the regular schedule of flights compared to normal traffic.”
The airport’s manager, Birendra Shrestha, told the Associated Press that the runway was not designed for the large military and cargo planes that have been flying to the airport since the magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck.
However, medium and small-size jets will still be allowed to land, officials told the AP.
Brigadier B. Jagdish said flights would be scheduled to “maximize relief materials under [the] new conditions.”
Top aid officials and military officers have already warned that more helicopters are desperately needed to get assistance to the farthest reaches of earthquake-struck Nepal.
It is only the latest complication in global efforts to aid people suffering in the wake of the April 25 quake, the impoverished country’s biggest and most destructive in eight decades. On Sunday, Nepalese officials said the death toll from the incident had reached 7,250, with over 14,200 injured.
People in Nepal — both in remote villages and the capital, Kathmandu — have complained about not seeing any rescue workers or international aid and about a lack of temporary shelters, with many sleeping out in the open because of fears of aftershocks bringing down their damaged homes.
The true extent of the damage from the earthquake is still unknown as reports keep filtering in from remote areas, some of which remain entirely cut off. The U.N. says the quake affected 8.1 million people — more than a quarter of Nepal’s 28 million people.
The government said Sunday that the quake had killed 7,040 people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report