Nepal earthquake death toll expected to climb ‘much higher,’ official says

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(CNN) — The death toll from the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal last weekend is already above 7,000, and a Nepali government minister warned Sunday that it’s expected to climb “much higher.”

“There are still villages where we know that all houses have been destroyed, but have not yet been able to reach,” Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said at an event in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The death toll from the 7.8-magnitude quake, which sent shock waves rippling through the Himalayan nation on April 25, currently stands at 7,056, according to Nepali authorities. More than 15,000 people have been injured.

Mahat portayed a desperately bleak situation in his comments at an event on the sidelines of an Asian Development Bank meeting in Baku.

“It is with great pain and sadness that I stand before you to present the case of my country Nepal which now remains devastated,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks posted on the bank’s website.

Mahat said the quake had caused “incalculable human loss and suffering, with millions of people rendered homeless.”

“The aftershocks have not receded and we expect the final casualty numbers to climb much higher,” he said.

His government warned Saturday that the chances of finding survivors buried in rubble are “extremely slim.”

“It will be a miracle if anyone is found alive,” Home Ministry spokesman Laxmi Dhakal said. “But we have not completely given up yet and are continuing to look.”

The United Nations estimates that more than 3 million people are in need of food assistance — nearly half of those need it immediately. Emergency funding of $415 million is needed, the United Nations said.

Mahat said the quake had completely or partially destroyed nearly 300,000 houses.

He said Nepalis would rebuild their nation and come out of the crisis stronger, but not without help from other countries.

“We need your technical advice, global knowhow and importantly, substantial financial resources to propel us,” he said.

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