KATHMANDU, Nepal -- Nepalese soldiers loaded supplies onto helicopters Tuesday and headed into the remote villages cut off since Saturday's devastating earthquake.
Prime Minister Sushil Koirala told the Reuters news agency that the death toll from the disaster -- already nearing 5,000 -- could reach double that figure as rescue crews reach the small villages close to the epicenter and fully assess the damage.
The first survivors were flown back from the outlying villages Tuesday to the town of Gorkha, a tiny market town which has turned into an operations hub from which crews can access the surrounding mountain villages.
CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reports that those villages, like much of impoverished Nepal, are home to thousands of people who live in buildings constructed without concern for earthquakes. Officials have warned that in many places, 90 percent of the homes have likely been levelled.
In Bhaktapur, just a couple miles east of Nepal's capital city of Kathmandu, teams of rescuers and volunteers have been digging through the wreckage of one house for nearly three days, searching for three people who were inside when the ground began to shake.
Watching on is Bimal Twnabasu. His mother lies beneath the rubble -- but the rescue workers have said there's no hope she's still alive.
Many of Bhaktapur's houses were centuries old. Williams says the force of the tremors toppled them like dominoes.
Just one street away from Twnabasu's destroyed home Williams found a Chinese search and rescue team. They said they were guided to a crumpled house by the stench emanating from the debris. They believe there's at least one dead body under the debris.
The Chinese have specialist gear, and they're experienced in earthquake zones. The Nepalese police they're working with don't even have gloves.
Nepal simply wasn't ready for a disaster on this scale.
In a small Buddhist Temple Williams and her team found 40 families taking shelter.
They all lost their homes when the earth heaved. Now they're close to running out of food and water, and Bhawani Ranjit told us they're growing frustrated.
"Still we are not getting any help. We are waiting for the help, but no one is looking for us to help," said Ranjit.