Jagat Nath Thakur, 19, stands with the body of his sister, 9, and nephew, 10, killed when a building collapsed during the Nepalese earthquake Photo: Matt Wade Victims of the Nepal earthquake lined up awaiting cremation Photo: Matt Wade

Funeral pyres are burning 24 hours a day along the Bagmati River near Kathmandu’s ancient Pasupatinath Temple. Photo: Matt Wade

A body being prepared for cremation after the Nepal earthquake. Photo: Matt Wade

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A grim-faced Jagat Nath Thakur stood quietly beside the bodies of his nine-year-old sister, Panchi, and his 10-year-old nephew, Bibek. Jagat was among hundreds waiting to cremate loved ones on the banks of the holy Bagmati River near Kathmandu’s ancient Pasupatinath Temple.

Most of the dead were victims of Saturday’s devastating earthquake – the city’s cremation grounds have been working overtime since.

Panchi and Bibek died when the five-storey building where they lived in Kathmandu was reduced to rubble by the quake. Another 20 people inside the building were also killed.

“Bibek’s body was found quite soon but Panchi’s was buried for about three days,” said Jagat. The 19-year-old was not home when the quake struck because he was working at the family’s hair salon, which was not damaged.

At least a dozen funeral pyres were burning at the traditional cremation area near Pasupatinath, Nepal’s most important Hindu temple. Hindus consider that part of the Bagmati River an auspicious place to hold funeral rituals.

Jagat watched over the children’s bodies alone while his father went to get firewood and other ritual items needed for the cremations. Nearby a family made final preparations to the funeral pyre of a 65-year old women killed when a building collapsed.

Jagat had already been waiting three hours for a space to set the pyre to become available. Five more corpses wrapped in shrouds were lined up waiting for cremation a few metres away. The Nepal government is providing the families of earthquake victims with logs free of charge.

On a normal day about 20 to 30 bodies are cremated near Pasupatinath, but since Saturday’s earthquake there have been hundreds. Demand is so high that funeral pyres were being prepared in an additional “overflow area” by the river, and the fires have been burning non-stop.

It’s grim reminder of the human cost of the disaster.

Sadly, Nepal’s cremation grounds are set to be extra busy for some time.

The death toll following the magnitude 7.8 earthquake has now officially topped 5000 and Nepal’s Prime Minister, Sushil Koirala, has warned it could reach 10,000.

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